WATERTOWN, N.Y. (WWNY) - You may have been hearing about new, more infectious variants of COVID-19. In fact, one of them has been found in New York state already.
It’s called the UK variant and it’s 50-percent more infectious. Within six weeks, experts believe it will be the more dominant strain of COVID-19 across the U.S., including here in the north country.
But an infectious disease doctor at Watertown’s Samaritan Medical Center stresses it isn’t more or less dangerous than the strain going around now.
“It is not associated with higher mortality that we know now, it causes the same disease, but it spreads more easily. So we really have to be more cautious,” said Dr. Marylene Duah.
Dr. Duah says COVID-19 is constantly mutating, resulting in new variants.
Experts are seeing those strains originating in places like the United Kingdom, South Africa, and Brazil.
“Even though it was first described sometime in September in the UK, it doesn’t mean it originated there. The virus has been mutating and the UK is very proactive in doing genomic testing where they look at variants,” said Dr. Duah.
On Monday, Governor Andrew Cuomo compared the pandemic to the Spanish Flu of 1918, which saw a newer, stronger variant in 1919.
“That’s what we’re afraid we’re seeing now - a new strain, which could cause a second wave,” he said.
So what happens if you’ve already been infected with an older variant? Are you still at risk of contracting a newer one? Dr. Duah says more research needs to be done.
“I believe that we will have some partial immunity because the strain is not fully different, but, will there be reinfections? There have been some reinfections with the old strain as well. So there will be some reinfections, but we don’t know much and we don’t know how much immunity we’ll have from the previous strains,” said Dr. Duah.
While Dr. Duah says these new variants could prolong the pandemic, there is some good news. According to the Associated Press, early studies suggest the Pfizer vaccine can protect against the new mutations, which only differ slightly from one another and the original strain.