Vaccine developers are slowly achieving their goal of developing the COVID-19 vaccine when reports of a new COVID-19 strain are spreading among the public. Cases of this new strain have been recorded in various countries, including the UK, the US, Australia, Canada, Japan, Lebanon, Denmark, France, the Netherlands, Italy, Spain, and Sweden.
Many countries have also implemented lockdowns, banning the entry of people coming from countries with a case of the new COVID-19 strain. However, that seems to be not working because more and more countries have reported detecting community transmission of the new strain.
Many fear that the new COVID-19 strain could cause a more severe illness because of its high transmissibility rate. But a major study shows that the new strain does not cause a more severe illness and a higher death rate.
New COVID-19 Strain is More Transmissible
The new COVID-19 strain recently discovered in the United Kingdom is significantly more transmissible, according to the scientists at Imperial College London.
Their study, published in a pre-print, combined genetic sequencing data and epidemiological findings to conclude that the new strain is likely to increase the R number between 0.4 to 0.7 compared to other strains of SARS-CoV-2, Forbes reported.
"These analyses, which have informed UK government planning in recent weeks, show that the new variant of concern, B.1.1.7, has substantially higher transmissibility than previous SARS-CoV-2 viruses circulating in the UK," study author Professor Neil Ferguson of the Imperial College London said.
Due to its higher transmissibility, it will be harder to control and further accentuates the urgency of rolling out vaccinations. COVID-19 vaccination in the UK has already started last month which vaccinates people that are at most risk, such as those 80 years old and above, people who live and work in care homes, and healthcare workers at high risk.
New COVID-19 Strain Does Not Cause More Severe Illness
According to the researchers from the Public Health England (PHE), there are no significant differences in the hospitalization or death rates among those people infected with the new COVID-19 strain and the original strain of SARS-CoV-2, ScienceAlert reported.
Susan Hopkins, the senior medical advisor to PHE, said that the B.1.1.7 variant "does not cause more severe disease or increased mortality." Nonetheless, the researchers are continuing their research about this new variant.
That means, being more transmissible does not make this new variant of SARS-CoV-2 more severe because researchers saw that both strains of the virus cause a similar effect to the infected person.
Additionally, the researchers noted that reinfection is not more likely to happen in this new variant group. They said that within 90 days after getting infected with the new strains only two people suffered reinfection compared to the three people who were infected with the original strain.
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