The new mutant strain of COVID-19

A mutation circulating in the UK is more infectious and probably already here

News of a new strain of COVID-19 found in the UK has started the conspiracy theories fluttering anew. The claim is that the new strain is merely another attempt to keep the world locked down and wearing masks even though vaccines are now available. So far, none of these conspiracies has adequately answered the question of why the powers-that-be would want to keep the world locked down and wearing masks, but I digress.

It is true that a new strain of Coronavirus has been identified. Per the CDC, the new strain is responsible for about 60 percent of new infections in London but has not yet been identified in the United States. The new virus is estimated to be 70 percent more infectious than the previous strain and “better fit to spread in humans.”

Even though the new virus strain has not been identified in the US, it is probably already here. The CDC points out that very little gene sequencing has been done on virus samples in the US and without this testing, the new strain could not be distinguished from the older version.

That the virus would mutate is not a surprise. Many viruses change as they reproduce. For example, the flu virus mutates so rapidly that the yearly vaccine is an educated guess as to which will be the dominant strain for that season.

So far, however, the Coronavirus has mutated slowly. Last spring, researchers could trace the spread of the virus by tracking the small mutations. That technique enabled researchers to determine that the strain that hit New York City came from Europe rather than China as with the West Coast outbreaks.

So now, we have a new COVID strain that is more dangerous chiefly because it spreads more readily than the old strain, which was already more infectious than the flu. That’s the bad news.

The good news is that the strains are still similar enough that the vaccines that we have already developed will still be effective. Dr. Moncef Slaoui, the vaccine czar appointed by President Trump, told CNBC that the chances that the mutations would enable the virus to evade the immune response created by the vaccines “are extremely low.”

The new mutation underscores the importance of taking the vaccine. People who avoided the original strain of the virus may fall prey to the new, more infectious version.

The conspiracy concern about the new COVID strain is just another example of how many people fire from the hip with bad assumptions made on partial information. Read past the headlines, do your research on real sites, not from the meme pages, and don’t believe everything you read on the internet.

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