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Can 2020 get any worse?
The answer is, of course — oh yeah.
A new strain of COVID-19 has been found in Britain that reportedly spreads more easily and is causing some alarm — though it’s not clear if the morphed strain is more deadly or causes more severe symptoms.
Viruses are always evolving in an attempt to keep spreading — and in many cases, the easier it is to catch, the less deadly it is. The flu, for instance, is constantly changing, which is why flu vaccines change every year, too.
In addition, new strains of COVID-19, which was first discovered in China, have been seen since the virus emerged approximately a year ago in Wuhan.
But the fact that the virus is changing — just as vaccines to target it are being distributed — has some concerned. “Health experts in the U.K. and U.S. said the strain seems to infect more easily than others, but there is no evidence yet it is more deadly,” The Associated Press reported on Sunday.
Patrick Vallance, the British government’s chief scientific adviser, told the AP that the new strain “moves fast and is becoming the dominant variant.”
“I’m worried about this, for sure,” Dr. Ravi Gupta, who studies viruses at the University of Cambridge in England, told the news agency.
But Dr. Vivek Murthy, who Joe Biden has tapped to be surgeon general (and who has served as surgeon general before) seemed less troubled.
Appearing on “Meet the Press” on NBC, Murthy said: “This news from the U.K. is about a strain of the virus that … appears to be more transmissible and more contagious than the virus that we’ve seen circulating prior to this.”
“While it seems to be more easily transmissible, we do not have evidence yet that this is a more deadly virus to an individual who acquires it,” Murthy added.
The former surgeon general, who has been tapped by Joe Biden to return to that position, added that the new strain doesn’t dampen vaccine hope.
Murthy also noted that the new strain doesn’t invalidate the current vaccines now approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
“There’s no reason to believe that the vaccines that have been developed will not be effective against this virus,” Murthy said.
There are reports that the new strain has been seen elsewhere in Europe, and even in Africa.
Dr. Maria Van Kerkhove, who serves as the World Health Organization’s lead on COVID-19, said Sunday that the new strain is crossing borders.
“We understand that this variant has been identified also in Denmark, in the Netherlands, and there was one case in Australia and it didn’t spread further there,” Van Kerkhove told the BBC on Sunday.
Still, she said it’s concerning that the new strain is “spreading and that it has so many mutations.”
“The longer this virus spreads, the more opportunities it has to change. So we really need to do everything we can right now to prevent spread,” she added.