Hundreds of people in the U.S could have the new coronavirus strain spreading rampantly across the UK.
That's what researchers at the University of Arizona believe, saying it's possible that the variant strain arrived as early as mid-November in various locations throughout the country.
"If I had to guess, I would say it's probably in hundreds of people by now," Michael Worobey, head of the department of ecology and evolutionary biology at the University of Arizona told CNN. "It's very possible it's arrived multiple times in multiple places."
"Imagine the amount of infected travelers leaving London -- that's been increasing exponentially," said Trevor Bedford, associate professor in the vaccine and infectious disease division of the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center.
CNN reports that scientists around the world are scouring genetic sequences of corona virus in the U.S. to see if any match up with the UK variant.
So far, they haven't found any matches, but they say that's likely because the U.S. surveillance system is not catching them.
Scientists in Britain have been able to trace the new strain's earliest known appearance back to September 20 in Kent, a county southeast of London, according to CNN reporting.
The CDC website notes that of the 275,000 full-genome sequences in public databases, 51,000 are from the U.S. and 125,000 are from the UK.
The question remains whether the variant is more deadly and if it will respond to the new vaccine therapies.
"I'm worried about this, for sure," but it's too soon to know how important it ultimately will prove to be, said Dr. Ravi Gupta, who studies viruses at the University of Cambridge in England. He and other researchers posted a report of it on a website scientists use to quickly share developments, but the paper has not been formally reviewed or published in a journal.
It's probably not more lethal, but we don't fully understand its contours," former U.S. Food and Drug Administration commissioner Dr. Scott Gottlieb said Sunday on CBS's "Face the Nation." He added, though, "It seems like this new strain is more contagious."