If you thought the holiday-fueled coronavirus outbreak couldn’t be more frightening, public health experts said Monday they feared what could be a more transmissible mutation spreading in England is already on our shores .
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson pulled the trigger on the UK’s tightest lockdown since March this weekend, drawing attention to what some experts saw as an even more contagious variant of the coronavirus. A wave of panic from European neighbors followed, and New York Governor Andrew Cuomo called for a ban on flights from the UK to stem the tide.
“Today that variant gets on a plane and lands at JFK,” Cuomo said Sunday. “How many times in your life have you to make the same mistake before you learn?”
But the mutation is not a reason for drastically changing course in the fight against the pandemic, public health experts told The Daily Beast on Monday. Indeed, a new variant was both an anticipated hurdle and a hurdle for which vaccine developers were prepared.
And while it may be politically attractive to call for border restrictions, experts have said that even if such strategies are implemented before there is a trace of a variant, these measures are not. not particularly effective.
“I am very confident that the SARS-CoV2 variant is now in the United States,” said Lawrence Gostin, director of the O’Neill Institute for National and Global Health Law at Georgetown University. “Considering international travel, it stretches the gullibility to believe that we are protected from the variant.”
Even more certain: the United States already has an “astronomical” spread of the virus in several states – and a new, more contagious variant could make this winter “even worse than previously thought”, according to Dr. Arnold Monto, specialist in infectious diseases and the interim chair of the Advisory Committee on Vaccines and Related Biologics.
“If this were to become the dominant strain in New York or the United States in general, there is likely to be an even faster increase in the number of cases, subsequent hospitalizations and strain on the healthcare system,” Dr Adrian Hyzler, UK -Uni, ” Healix International’s chief medical officer told The Daily Beast.
As Hyzler pointed out, data and models suggest that this new variant is likely to have “much higher transmissibility.” But that there is no evidence yet on which to base this hypothesis – and certainly none that the new mutation has any change in the severity of the disease. In South Africa, where a similar phenomenon has been observed, scientists also said human behavior could explain much of the increase in incidents of mutated strains, rather than greater transmissibility.
At a press conference on Monday, WHO Director-General Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus echoed the points, noting that “viruses mutate over time; it is natural and expected. “
“Ultimately, we need to suppress the transmission of all SARS-CoV-2 viruses as quickly as possible,” Tedros added. “The more we allow it to spread, the more opportunities it has to change.”
Or, as Dr. Jennifer Horney, founding director and professor of the Epidemiology Program at the University of Delaware, put it: “People should really focus on the fact that human behavior, not viral mutations, continues to fuel the current spike in COVID-19 infections. “
But while social distancing and other metrics are more essential than ever, experts have said wholesale travel bans tend to be more emotional than they are based on science.
“If you don’t get behind the eighth balloon, God forbid us not to close the border, and then it turns out to be true, you would be crucified,” said Dr David Langer, president of the neurosurgery at Lenox Hill Hospital who has also worked in RNA research for several years.
Monto agreed, saying “border restrictions have been notoriously poor in preventing transmission”, and that such decisions are also painstakingly “mired in politics”.
And even though more than 30 countries, from France and Germany to Morocco and Canada, have limited inbound UK travel, it’s not clear the choice still makes much sense for the United States as the ‘noted Hyzler, the variant was first identified in September and has been observed. since then in the UK, meaning “very likely” he has already entered the US by air.
And while other experts agree with that claim, they also pointed out that it would be difficult to know for sure in the United States, where genomic surveillance – as a method of detecting mutations before they don’t reach a point of disaster – doesn’t really exist.
“You can’t find what you’re not actively looking for,” Gostin said. “I would be very surprised if the variant was not integrated into the American population. It is a “fitter” virus and will likely become a more worrying feature of our COVID response. “
On the positive side, social distancing, masking and hand hygiene would still be effective in combating this new variant, even though it is more contagious. And although Lenox Hill’s Langer postulated that the media coverage of “mutant viruses” is more interesting than that of “RNA biology,” he believes the sky is not falling, in fact.
“Obviously, the mutation is a huge fear,” Langer said, noting that the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines have been tested against dozens of possible scenarios.
“They knew it was possible and studied the potential mutations,” Langer said, noting that he has “no concerns” that the vaccine will always be effective against such a mutation. “These antibodies are diverse, they attack the protein from top to bottom of its chain. The human immune system is amazing, and it will take more than a few mutations to overcome our immune response.
#variant #mutant #coronavirus