Health experts say new strain of COVID-19 likely spreads faster, but no need to panic right now


LAS VEGAS (KLAS) — As the world makes significant progress in the fight against COVID-19, a new strain of the virus is now emerging.

A mutated version of the coronavirus appeared in the United Kingdom. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says the new strain of COVID reportedly accounts for 60% of recent infections in London. 

While local experts say it might spread faster between people, there is no need to panic right now.

“There are a number of mutations added together that make this virus a little different,” said Brian Labus, an assistant professor at the UNLV School of Public Health.

Infectious disease experts across the globe are keeping a close eye on the U.K., where the new strain emerged in recent months. Labus says the new variant poses potential problems.

“When we’ve seen similar mutations before, it has led to increased transmissibility, so that’s why we’re concerned that it could spread more easily from person to person,” Labus said.

The good news is that the CDC says there is no evidence right now that the new strain causes more severe illness. 

State medical leaders remain confident in the current vaccine.

“The vaccine probably will work very well still, even in light of this new circulating strain,” said Dr. Mark Pandori, director of the Nevada State Public Health Laboratory. “A vaccine-mediated immunity should still recognize it very well.”

Many scientists believe the variant is already in the United States, although the CDC says it has not been officially identified yet.

“The data generated to this point does not indicate the presence of this virus circulating in Nevada,” Pandori said.

Washington State Governor Jay Inslee put in place a required 14-day quarantine for travelers arriving from the U.K. But experts say that will likely not be effective — if, in fact, the strain has already crossed the pond.

“Those things really disrupt a lot of people and don’t do much to stop the spread,” Labus said.

8 News Now reached out to Gov. Steve Sisolak’s office to see if there could be U.K. travel restrictions into Nevada because of the new strain. We did not get a response as of Wednesday night.

Scientists say the only way to prevent the new mutation of COVID-19 is to continue following best practices, including wearing masks, washing your hands and practicing social distancing.

For more information on the new strain, visit the CDC’s website here.

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