Health Team

Duke expert: New UK variant more contagious than coronavirus but not more deadly

Posted January 15, 2021 11:45 p.m. EST
Updated January 16, 2021 6:33 a.m. EST

— Ten states currently have confirmed cases of the U.K. coronavirus variant. Many of those states, like Florida, Georgia and Colorado, had flights land at Raleigh-Durham International Airport on Friday night.

Experts stress that, while this variant is more contagious, it’s not any deadlier.

Dr. Cameron Wolfe, Infectious Disease Expert, believes it’s only a matter of time until we see the variant in our area.

“We expect they’ll be in North Carolina. If not now, very shortly,” Wolfe said.

Although North Carolina is not currently on the CDC’s list for confirmed cases caused by variants, state leaders are not taking any chances.

Dr. Mandy Cohen of the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services said it’s possible that the U.K. variant is already in the state, and we just don’t know it.

“It is possible that that variant is here, and in fact, it is likely,” Cohen explained. “We are operating as if it is here.”

Dr. David Montefiori, a virologist at Duke University, has been studying the U.K. variant in his lab for several weeks now.

“These variants do not make you sicker, they’re not more likely to kill people, [but] they’re transmitted more easily,” Montefiori said.

Wolfe says that the new strain could stretch hospitals even thinner than they’ve already been.

“We can always find ways to find more rooms or more beds, but if we run out of nursing staff, we run out of capacity," he said.

And as beds continue to fill up, many are wondering if new variant will be covered by the current COVID-19 vaccines.

“I suspect that they won’t be. Or at worst, the vaccines might be less effective but still pretty good against these variants, hopefully,” Montefiori said.

“The bottom line [is] we don’t know until the tests are done.”

Montefiori says that it will take some time until you’ll be able to know if you’ve contracted the variant.

“Unfortunately, this type of genetic testing to look for the mutations isn’t something that’s available to the general public. The testing is being done by the scientists,” he said.

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