LAS VEGAS (KLAS) — A new variant of the coronavirus has been found in Nevada, and health officials say it is more contagious than the original strain.
The new strain first emerged in the United Kingdom last fall, and it has been popping up in the United States in recent weeks. The U.K. variant, also known as B.1.1.7, has been found in at least 24 states in the U.S., according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
It has also been found in Nevada, so some local experts say we should step up our prevention efforts.
“Public health measures are increasingly more important,” said. Dr. Marc J. Kahn, Dean of the UNLV School of Medicine.
This week, officials announced the U.K. strain of the virus was detected in a specimen from a Las Vegas woman.
“It’s able to potentially infect more people,” according to Dr. Kahn.
Dr. Kahn tells 8 News NOW that it is still unclear whether the U.K. strain is more deadly because more research needs to be done on that front. But experts agree, it is around 50 percent more contagious.
Dr. Kahn says it is not a bad idea for mitigation measures for high-risk groups to be increased. He says that includes double masking.
“The greater the barrier you have between yourself and others, the less likely this virus is able to be transmitted,” Dr. Kahn said.
Dr. Kahn adds it is also important to keep your time inside places like grocery stores limited, and you should avoid areas with inadequate airflow.
“With a more contagious variant, we need to be even more careful,” Dr. Kahn said.
While research shows the COVID-19 vaccine is effective against new virus strains, Dr. Jonathan Baktari, CEO and Medical Director for e7 Health, says Pfizer and Moderna are both working on booster shots to fight mutated versions of the virus better.
“In other words, modulating the mRNA vaccine to take that variant into account, and then potentially being prepared to give people a booster shot if that becomes necessary,” Dr. Baktari said.
Dr. Baktari says these additional doses will only be necessary if the variants continue to cause issues that the current vaccines cannot handle.
“Potentially, we’re going to need to come up with vaccines for mutations if we don’t get it under control soon,” Dr. Baktari said.
The two-dose system for the vaccine is still the current official recommendation. Dr. Kahn says regardless of what research is left to do, the vaccine is the best form of protection against COVID-19.
“As soon as your time comes up to get vaccinated, you have got to get vaccinated,” Dr. Kahn said.
8 News NOW asked the Southern Nevada Health District (SNHD) if it is officially recommending any extra steps in light of the new strain. SNHD officials sent the following statement:
“The Southern Nevada Health District recommends that everyone continue to take steps to prevent the spread of COVID-19. The same measures we have been advising everyone to take — social distancing, wearing face coverings, avoiding large gatherings, staying home if you’re sick, washing your hands, and disinfecting surfaces — are effective against the variant strain found in one Clark County resident.”