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The CDC has a warning for a COVID-19 ‘variant of high consequence’

What is a ‘variant of high consequence’ and what does it mean?

A higher power magnification image shows the structure and density of SARS-CoV-2.
A higher power magnification image shows the structure and density of SARS-CoV-2 virions (red) produced by human airway epithelia.
Ehre Lab, UNC School of Medicine

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has an entire page on its website dedicated to variants of high consequence, which are the worst type of variant of the coronavirus.

Right now, there is not a variant of high consequence in the United States. But the rise of one could present major issues for the country.

  • “Currently, there are no SARS-CoV-2 variants that rise to the level of high consequence,” according to the CDC.

The delta variant, which is dominating the U.S. right now, has been labeled a variant of concern, which has increased transmissibility, reduction in vaccine effectiveness and has led to more severe cases, per the CDC.

What is a variant of high consequence?

Per the CDC, a variant of high consequence is often a variant of concern that doesn’t stop spreading because of preventative measures.

  • Most variants of high consequence can evade vaccines at a high rate and will show “a disproportionately high number of vaccine breakthrough cases, or very low vaccine-induced protection against severe disease,” according to the CDC.

A variant of high consequence will often lead to more severe disease and increased hospitalizations.

Is this the ‘doomsday variant’?

Experts told Newsweek that a “doomsday variant” of COVID-19 might be on the way, which could evade vaccines and cause widespread cases in the U.S.

  • “I wouldn’t be incredibly surprised if something else came along that’s even more transmissible,” Eric Vail, director of molecular pathology at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, told Newsweek.

Indeed, Jeremy Luban, a virologist at the University of Massachusetts Medical School, told The Washington Post that no one knows how the coronavirus will evolve moving forward.

  • “Nobody knows what tricks the virus has left,” Luban told The Washington Post. “It’s possible we’ve seen all of its chess moves, or its poker tricks, but it’s got a very big complicated genome and it probably still has some space to explore.”