While these new strains are not more deadly, doctors say they are more contagious. Here’s how we can prevent them from taking over.
Columbia, SC (WLTX) — New variants of the coronavirus continue to emerge in the United States.
Within the last few days, we learned of two new strains in South Carolina: One from the U.K., the other from South Africa.
While these new discoveries are not more deadly, doctors say they are more contagious.
We asked the experts what can be done to stem the tide.
“It’s becoming clear that the virus can learn new tricks every day,” said Dr. Helmut Albrecht, Director of Infectious Disease Research and Policy for Prisma Health and USC.
As of Sunday evening, the CDC reports three new variants in more than 30 states.
In South Carolina, DHEC confirmed the country’s first two cases of the South African variant Thursday and our first case of the U.K. variant Saturday.
“This is nothing new,” said Albrecht. “This is what viruses do.”
Albrecht says some mutations, like these emerging variants, can make the virus spread easier.
“They’re spreading as fast as a plane can fly,” he said.
In fact, doctors assume these new variants have been in South Carolina for a while and are more widespread.
“Just because we found the South African strain first in South Carolina, that does not mean it’s not everywhere else,” said Albrecht.
Because these mutations spread so quickly, they could soon take over as the new dominant strain. Doctors believe this may be the case for the U.K. variant.
“The prediction is that strain will take over by March,” said Albrecht.
The good news, he says, is we have the ability to change that. What it will take is more of us obeying COVID safety guidelines and getting the vaccine.
“This has put us on a time crunch for the vaccine rollout,” said Albrecht. “If we get this done earlier, not by October but probably by June for which we need a lot more vaccine, we could stem the tide – not only of the old viruses but also of the new mutant strain.”
To put it simply, doctors say the longer we give this virus to mutate, the more problems we will have.
“People are just tired of the restraints that were put on to them and they’re going out more, so it’s spreading more,” said Albrecht. “If the virus doesn’t find people to spread to, it’s a dead end.”
Albrecht says at this point, our current Moderna and Pfizer vaccines can perform well against these new variants.
“This is gonna be an evolving story,” he added. “There will actually be more critical variants than this.”