A new strain of coronavirus seems to be spreading more easily across the UK and causing concern. Check out the latest coronavirus news from Stream MD.
In this article:
- Coronavirus News Update: Where Has the New Strain Come From?
- Coronavirus News Update: Should We Be Concerned About the New Variant?
- Coronavirus News Update: Is This the First Mutation?
- Coronavirus News Update: Will the Current Vaccines Work Against the New Variant?
- Coronavirus News Update: What Does This Mean for the US?
Coronavirus News Update: US Army Scientists Test the New Strain
Where Has the New Strain Come From?
The unusually highly mutated variant has possibly emerged from a patient with a weaker immune system. They could not beat the virus, and their body instead became somewhere to breed and mutate.
Should We Be Concerned About the New Variant?
There is a lot of media attention about this new coronavirus mutation because it is rapidly replacing the other versions of the virus. The immediate worry is whether it is worse for those that contract it and if the vaccines currently in production will work against it.
There is no evidence yet that the new variant is more deadly, but there needs to be further studies. Scientists have discovered the binding effect of the mutations on the virus. Additionally, when tested in the lab, the virus’s ability to infect cells has increased. So basically, it can spread faster than the other version.
Statisticians have been number crunching to calculate just how quickly the variant has spread in relation to the other strains in an attempt to work out how much of an edge this one could have.
One figure mentioned by Dr. Erik Volz, from Imperial College London, was that it could be 70% more transmittable and may be increasing the R number (an indication of whether the pandemic is growing).
Another reason that has been given for a faster spread is the lighter (tier 2) restrictions that were set in London recently. The new strain might have been in the right place at the right time. Last week, prime minister Boris Johnson announced tier four restrictions to help reduce the spread of the mutated virus.
What is down to the virus, and people’s behavior is difficult to define.
Scientists first discovered this variant in September 2020. By November, about a quarter of all coronavirus cases in London were the new strain, and by mid-December, around two-thirds.
The consequences of a faster spread are likely to cause issues for hospitals as more people will need treatment at one time.
Is This the First Mutation?
This isn’t the first time we’ve seen the virus mutate. The original Wuhan strain is now not the same one that plagues the world. Back in February, the D614G variant emerged in Europe and is now the dominant virus globally.
A222V was another mutation that spread across Europe during the summer and linked to people traveling on vacation.
The H69/V70 mutation has emerged several times and famously infected mink.
Will the Current Vaccines Work Against the New Variant?
Vaccines cause the immune system to attack different areas of the virus, to even if there is a mutation, the vaccine will still work on other areas of the virus.
The leading vaccines that are being produced all tested positive for an immune response.
Vivek Murthy, President-elect Joe Biden’s surgeon general nominee, said there’s “no reason to believe that the vaccines that have been developed will not be effective against this virus as well.”
However, if too many mutations occur, that’s when a new vaccine might be needed. The most concerning thing about discovering all the new variants is evidence of the virus trying to escape a vaccine. I.e., it avoids the full effects of the vaccine and can continue infecting. Maria Van Kerkhove, of the World Health Organization, said, “The longer this virus spreads, the more opportunities it has to change.”
Although viruses naturally evolve, some do so more than others. The flu virus is known for this, and new flu vaccines are produced all the time to reduce the risk of severe sickness and to avoid the need for medical attention.
What Does This Mean for the US?
The variant can so far be found mainly in the south east of England. Some cases have been found in Australia and Denmark.
As well as tighter restrictions in the UK, to try to limit any spread, Canada and several European countries have banned or limited flights from the U.K.
Americans who have already had COVID-19 from a different strain are unlikely to be able to get the new strain, according to former U.S. Food and Drug Commissioner Scott Gottlieb.
While the new strain is thought to spread more rapidly, there is zero evidence that it is more deadly. We will have to wait and see what scientists discover and possibly react quicker to adaptations. Continue to follow precautions – maintain social distance, wear masks, and wash hands.
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