WHO classifies COVID-19 variant first identified in India as a variant of concern

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(CNN) — The World Health Organization has classified the B.1.617 Covid-19 variant, which was first identified in India, as a variant of concern, the WHO’s technical lead for COVID-19 said during a news briefing on Monday.

A “variant of concern” label indicates that the identified variant may show, among other indicators, evidence of increased transmissibility or evidence of increased severity.

“There is some available information to suggest increased transmissibility of B.1.617,” said Maria Van Kerkhove, WHO COVID-19 technical lead.

Quantifying the risk posed by the variant will require real-world data in addition to greater genomic surveillance, WHO officials said.

“Even though there is increased transmissibility demonstrated by some preliminary studies, we need much more information about this virus variant in this lineage and all of the sublineages,” Van Kerkhove said Monday. “We need more targeted sequencing to be done, and to be shared in India and elsewhere so that we know how much of this virus is circulating.”

WHO said it will be releasing more information on the variant in its Situation Report on Tuesday.

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on its website currently classifies the B.1.617 variant as a “variant of interest.” CNN has reached out to the CDC to see if it has any immediate plans to reclassify B.1.617 as a “variant of concern” in the United States.

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