By Dennis Thompson
THURSDAY, December 31, 2020 – A new, more infectious variant of the COVID-19 virus has emerged in separate cases in Colorado and California, weeks after it emerged in the UK.
Doctors on the frontlines of the pandemic say people shouldn’t panic, but should definitely adhere to proven infection control measures like wearing masks and social distancing even more closely.
“While the new strain is more transmissible – up to 70% according to recent analysis – the mutation itself has not previously been considered more virulent. [able to cause harm] than current strains circulating in the United States and abroad, “said Dr. Robert Glatter. He is an emergency room physician at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York.
There is no evidence that the new variant makes people sicker or increases the overall risk of death from COVID-19, according to the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. It also appears that COVID-19 vaccines should protect against it.
British researchers first detected the new variant in September, and it’s now widespread in London and south-eastern England, according to the CDC.
About 15% of people exposed to a person with the variant end up becoming infected, compared to a 10% infection rate associated with the standard COVID-19 coronavirus, according to a report by UK public health officials.
But data from the UK showed that the new variant does not appear to have resistance against COVID-19 vaccines distributed across America, Glatter said.
“The new strain has yet to be found to be more resistant to the recently deployed mRNA-based COVID-19 vaccines from Pfizer and Moderna, as well as other candidate vaccines in Phase 3 trials that have failed. have not yet obtained emergency use authorization, “Glatter said.
These mRNA vaccines are designed to induce the immune system to produce antibodies against multiple areas of the spike protein, he said. The spike protein, found on the outer surface of the virus, is the primary means by which the virus attaches to cells in the body, he explained.
Dr Ashish Jha, dean of Brown University School of Public Health in Providence, RI, agreed with Glatter.
“There is no evidence so far – and we are still studying it – that it is more lethal,” Jha said. ABC News. “And I’m not at all worried that it escapes the vaccine.”
However, the fact that a new variant has raised its head shows that researchers will need to maintain constant surveillance, to ensure that the coronavirus does not ultimately mutate away from the protection offered by these vaccines, added Glatter.
“We cannot be complacent and need to focus our attention on critical mutations by engaging in active genomic surveillance as the pandemic continues to rage in the United States and around the world,” Glatter said. “This may require us to adjust the composition of current vaccines over the next few years.”
The presence of this new variant gives an additional boost to protect yourself and those around you from the spread of the coronavirus, Glatter said.
“With the reality of a strain variety now circulating the world, the importance of adhering to proven mitigation measures – physical distancing, wearing a mask, and hand hygiene – is now more important than ever to reducing transmission, ”he told me.
The United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has more on newer variants of COVID-19.
SOURCES: Robert Glatter, MD, emergency physician, Lenox Hill Hospital, New York City; Public Health England, technical briefing, December 21, 2020; ABC News