SAVANNAH, Ga. (WSAV)- Three strains of COVID-19 are infecting people around the country. Scientists are gathering data, but they still can’t say exactly how the mutations will affect the human body.
“Viruses, by their nature, tend to change and mutate,” said Dr. Lawton Davis, director of the Coastal Health District.
When a virus-like COVID-19 mutates, it essentially means it’s getting smarter. Over time the virus is learning how to bypass your immune system by making slight changes to its makeup.
“They’re sort of very sloppy manufacturing plants,” said Davis, “they reproduce literally hundreds of thousands of copies of themselves each time they infect a cell in your body.”
When one of those copies is more infectious, it creates a new strain of the virus altogether. The highly contaigous UK strain is now in at least 33 states, including Georgia.
New strains have also emerged in South Africa and Brazil.
“They’re more transmissible we think the vaccines, will be less protective for the new variants,” said Dr. Chris Murray, director of the Institute for Health Metrics and evaluation at the University of Washington.
The antibodies from a previous infection may not protect you either, according to experts.
“We should probably be thinking less about achieving herd immunity and more about just really trying to prevent, you know, death and severe disease,” said Murray.
Dr. Davis says there are fears the new variants could lead to another surge and more lives lost. In January, more covid deaths were recorded than in any other month since the pandemic began.
“The same boring, but necessary good public hygiene measures that we’ve been now practicing for about a year,” said Dr. Davis, “work against that virus just like they do the others.”
Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease says
vaccines still provide some line of defense.
“Viruses cannot mutate if they don’t replicate,” said Fauci, “and if you stop their replication by vaccinating widely and not giving the virus an open playing field you will not get mutations.”
The Centers for Disease Control is testing upwards of 7,000 samples a week, looking for dangerous and potentially deadlier variants of the virus.