UB health experts break down new COVID strain found in U.K.


(WIVB)–A new strain of COVID- 19 is making its way through the United Kingdom. Officials in the UK say it’s 70-percent more contagious.

To help stop it from spreading to New York, Governor Andrew Cuomo announced that he’s working with airlines to have travelers with direct flights from the UK get tested before boarding their flight.

“The mutations only become really important if they somehow change how the virus behaves, if it evades our treatments or if it evades our testing,” said John Sellick, a professor in the department of medicine at the Jacobs School of Medicine & Biomedical Sciences 

Sellick and Doctor Thomas Russo, both from the Jacobs School say not much is known yet if this variant is more contagious or more deadly than the current strain found in the U.S.

“At least the present evidence is consistent with it’s not more virulent, it doesn’t seem to cause more serious disease. Now whether this is truly more infectious or not is something that’s being sorted out. It has become the increasing dominant strain in the Uk and parts of southern Africa as well. Would perhaps suggest that it is more infectious.”

If the variant does make it’s way to the states, Sellick says the vaccines already being administered right now should work against it.

“The companies have already said that it would only take them a matter of weeks to modify the vaccine and get a new more effective vaccine out if in fact that’s what’s being needed.”

The health experts also say regardless of what variants are out there or will be in the future, if people continue to follow the health recommendations it’ll prevent it from spreading.
Sellick, professor in the department of medicine at the jacobs school of medicine & biomedical sciences

“I don’t want to downplay it. We have to be concerned about it. We have to be cautious, we have to investigate it. I also don’t think there is any need for panic at this point,” Russo said.

Governor Andrew Cuomo says he is working with hospitals across the state to start testing for this variant. We reached out to area hospitals to see if they’ll be testing for this, most got back to us saying so far they are not but will work with the department of health and inform the public once they know more.

Sarah Minkewicz is a reporter who has been part of the News 4 team since 2019. See more of her work here.

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