As of Friday, several mutant strains of the virus have been confirmed around the United States, including those originally discovered in South Africa, Brazil and the United Kingdom, and also a local strain in California linked to major county outbreaks and over a third of cases in Los Angeles, say researchers.
These strains have caused great concern because they include mutations along the surface nail protein of the virus, which it uses to infect cells. Experts have expressed concern that the mutated strains will reduce the effectiveness of vaccines as the expansion of the long-awaited jabs continues around the world.
Early findings suggest that vaccines will remain effective against the strains, but the South African strain in particular has reduced the effect. For example, new results from Novavax reveals that its vaccine is 89% against COVID-19 disease, but dropped to 60% among experimental volunteers in South Africa. Including volunteers with HIV, the protection against the South African variant was a total of 49%, the company says.
Nevertheless, the guidance from health representatives has remained the same.
“We know that even as we work hard to defeat COVID-19, the virus continues to evolve as all viruses do,” said Jan Malcolm, Minnesota Health Commissioner, in a statement. news release when the state confirmed the first US cases of the Brazilian variant this week. “This is another reason why we want to limit the transmission of COVID-19 – the fewer people who receive COVID-19, the fewer opportunities the virus has to develop.”
“The good news is that we can slow down the spread of this variant and all COVID-19 variants by using the proven preventative methods of wearing masks, keeping social distance, staying home when sick and testing when appropriate.”
The new head of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Dr. Rochelle Walensky, reiterated on Friday that the country’s first two cases of the South African variant announced Thursday in South Carolina, was among two people who did not have a new travel history and did not know each other, indicating that the tribe has been circulating in the community.
While much is still unknown about mutated strains, and researchers are working to address responses such as effects on transmission, virulence and vaccine effectiveness, experts say a tight fit is one of the most important factors when considering a coronavirus face mask.
When more variant cases are identified, experts examine whether you can have even more protection if you wear two masks instead of one. CDC is currently studying efficiency of double masks – especially a cloth mask placed over a medical mask – to stop the spread of coronavirus but does not yet have “hard data” to support whether it would be better than using a single mask, it said.
Walensky told NBC’s “Today” on Friday that 59% of Americans are wearing masks right now. According to CDC, masks should have two layers of breathable fabric, with a tight fit that covers the nose and mouth.
Fox News’s Alexandria Hein and Madeline Farber contributed to this report.
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