(WTNH) — The fight against COVID-19 intensifies, as cases continue to climb and multiple variants are circulating globally. One new variant, which the CDC said emerged in the United Kingdom a few months ago, has been detected in the United States.
“Not necessarily a reason to sound the alarm, but definitely something we have to watch,” said Dr. David Banach, hospital epidemiologist at UConn Health.
The CDC said viruses constantly change through mutation and new variants of a virus are expected over time. Sometimes, new variants emerge and disappear. Other times, new variants emerge and start infecting people.
“Most of these mutations are not very significant, but sometimes, there are enough mutations in place to change some aspects of the virus,” said Dr. Banach. “What’s been seen so far is that this particular variant of the virus seems to be highly transmissible, so it can spread quite easily.”
The CDC reports, currently, there’s no evidence these variants cause more severe illness or increased risk of death. Scientists are working to figure out how widely these new variants have spread and how the new variants differ.
“I think this does really heighten the need to do this next level of testing, what we call genomic sequencing, to really understand when these changes are occurring and if they’re occurring with more frequency and how they’re impacting the overall spread of COVID-19,” said Dr. Banach.
There’s also growing concern from some about the impact this could have on COVID-19 vaccines being administered across the country and world.
“The scientific evidence doesn’t suggest that the vaccine would be less effective per se,” explained Dr. Banach. “Vaccines have an effect that allow the immune system to attack multiple different ways against the virus. So, one change like this wouldn’t necessarily change the effectiveness of the vaccine.”
As further research is being done, Dr. Banach said it’s up to us to do our part as well.
“This really reinforces the need to be even more vigilant about our protective measures,” said Dr. Banach.
Those protective measures are ones we have been urged to follow throughout the entire pandemic: wash your hands, wear your mask, stay at least six feet apart from others and avoid crowds.