CHICAGO (NewsNation Now) — There are more questions than answers as new strains of the coronavirus spread through England. Scientists say there is reason for concern but that the new strains should not cause alarm.
“There’s zero evidence that there’s any increase in severity” of COVID-19 from the latest strain, the World Health Organization’s emergencies chief, Dr. Michael Ryan said Monday.
Worry has been growing since Saturday, when Britain’s prime minister said a new strain, or variant, of the coronavirus seemed to spread more easily than earlier ones and was moving rapidly through England.
Dozens of countries barred flights from the U.K., and southern England was placed under strict lockdown measures.
NewsNation talked with Dr. Steven Thomas, the chief of infectious diseases at Upstate Medical University in Syracuse New York and lead investigator in the trials of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine. He explains what we can expect from this new strain and if it could spread to the United States.
What do we know about the new strain?
“Is it more transmissible? And I think that story is still not complete even though there’s some people that seem to think that that’s a fact, I’m not sure that is yet considered fact versus the result of computer modeling and things of that nature. Is it more severe, doesn’t make people sicker? Do the therapeutics that we have so plasma, remdesivir, these antibodies, Regeneron Eli Lilly antibodies are they no longer going to be effective?” said Dr. Thomas.
Are the new strains cause for concern?
“People that that study viruses, they know that viruses are constantly changing their constantly mutating they’re constantly evolving and trying to survive and we have seen other dominant new hints of these SARS-CoV-2 virus. Previously I mean we had a mutant that basically went from one form to another back in April or May time frame at a global level. And so it’s not unusual that we are seeing mutations and that we are picking these mutations up because scientists have been looking since the beginning of the pandemic, have been looking at these genetic fingerprints of the viruses that are being collected around the world. So should we be concerned? Absolutely. Should it motivate us to continue to do research on these strains and to be observant and to collect information? Absolutely. Should we panic? Not yet,” said Thomas
Will the COVID-19 vaccines still work?
“Do these vaccines, right now, Moderna and Pfizer the two vaccines that have emergency use authorization are they still going to be effective? At least my read of the of the information and what I’ve seen is that these vaccines we should press on and press ahead there’s no evidence this new strain will somehow escape the immunity generated by these vaccines. And I also have not seen these new variants make people any sicker or that the therapeutics that we have are any less effective,” said Thomas.
Could these new strains discovered in the U.K. come to the United States?
“I think that it (new strain) is probably are already here, and in fact if you look at the paper that was reporting this you have seen they already have been isolating these virus strains with this mutation in it in the United States before,” said Thomas.
Can travel restrictions help in preventing the spread of the new strain?
“Whether its with in the United States or internationally people should not be traveling unnecessarily in the midst of a pandemic and in the midst of having huge hot spots within our country and within other countries,” said Thomas.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.