New Strain for the New Year?
Just when we thought 2020 was finished with us.
"MUTATED CORONAVIRUS SPREADS IN U.K."
Perhaps you've seen headlines along these lines. Seems a little ominous, and we've all got questions that need answering - like how fast is it spreading? Is it more dangerous? How am I going to finish these leftovers from the holidays?
At this point there's no need for panic about this new strain. We need more research, but we've got a pretty good idea of what we're up against. Let's discuss.
The new strain of coronavirus which has spread from London to Southeast Europe just one mutant variation in a long line of them. Mutations in viruses are normal. The flu is a perfect example of this -- there are currently so many different strains of influenza that the medical world does its best to keep up with them all. The flu shot we get every year is simply a defense against the most common strain at that time.
The new strain wasn't unexpected. Mutations happen regularly, and experts are working hard to stay ahead of the virus.
What's important about the emergent strain in Europe is that 2 or 3 different mutations have to do with the virus's spike protein which is used to reproduce and spread throughout our bodies. What we've seen so far in Europe are mutations to this protein which likely increase the rate at which the virus spreads (50-70% more quickly). For now, that's all we know, though more research is required to back these conclusions.
NO MORE DANGEROUS
Looking at the new European strains, it seems that they are no more dangerous than other variations. Britain's Health Secretary Matt Hancock said on Monday that there is "nothing to suggest" that the mutant coronavirus is causing more serious sickness in patients. The nature of these mutations affect the transmission rate of the virus, not the severity of disease.
What we've seen so far is that the mutant coronavirus is no more lethal than other more prominent varieties.
It is important to note that increased casualties could be involved regarding the mutated strain, but only because more people could become infected. The number of patient fatalities may increase if this variant continues to spread, but this is only because the virus could infect a larger percent of the population.
A FASTER SPREAD
The first cases of the new coronavirus were identified in London, and it seems that the majority of new infections have come from the same variant.
While no clinical studies have been completed, UK health officials have seen that this new type of COVID-19 is from 50-70% more transmissible than average.
The way the virus is moving from person to person is still the same: physical contact, surface contamination, social crowding, aerosol particles, etc.
WE WERE PREPARED FOR THIS
There are many things that could develop in the coming weeks regarding the UK coronavirus strain. We could learn more about where it came from, how it affects people, and as it spreads there is a possibility for further mutation. When this happens the current COVID-19 vaccines will become less effective so it's important to keep updating our defenses.
Fighting this new strain will look a whole lot like fighting any other previous strain.
The most effective tools for stopping the spread of this new strain should be familiar: social distancing, hand washing, contact tracing, and mask wearing all will work together to minimize the impact of this new brand of COVID.
So there's no reason to worry too much about this recent development in the UK. While this new strain appears to be moving more quickly than what we've seen so far this year, our doctors and scientists saw this coming It's true that fight against this virus will be a long one. With each day that passes, though, we learn more and get better.
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