Scientists have discovered at least four variants of the COVID-19 virus in the United Kingdom, South Africa, Nigeria, and Japan.
As of Tuesday, the UK mutation was the only strain present in Florida.
Infectious Disease expert Dr. Nicole Iovine of UF Health says she and other doctors are concerned about the way the new strains spread.
“This particular strain seems to have the ability to transmit from person to person more easily than the usual strain,” Dr. Iovine says.
The Centers for Disease Control and Preventions says Florida has at least 22 cases of the UK COVID variant in the state.
Dr. Iovine says it’s normal for a virus to mutate over time, as we see with influenza year after year.
Although it’s a new variant, Dr. Iovine says it’s still detectable by the COVID-19 tests in use now, but it’s a generic positive, meaning the test won’t distinguish between the different strains.
The only real way to identify the strain is through the complicated process of completely sequencing the genome.
Scientists made the discovery by looking at the makeup of the virus and breaking down the code.
“That’s a routine thing that the CDC does, as do other health departments and other nations,” Dr. Iovine says. “So that’s how the variant was discovered here in the United States...part of the usual surveillance that is done.”
Dr. Iovine says she expects the new strains to continue to spread across the nation and in Florida, but it’s not all bad news.
“It does appear that the vaccines work equally well against the British variant and the South African variant right now, which is terrific news, obviously.”
Dr. Iovine says she’s hoping Florida ramps up its vaccination efforts, because if the new strains are more contagious, then the spread could be even more severe than we’ve seen with the usual strain.
Regarding the 22 cases of the coronavirus variant already in Florida, the state Department of Health says they’re working closely with the CDC to support sequencing.
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