In a new YouTube video, pulmonary medicine and critical care doctor Mike Hansen, MD addresses some of the most common and pressing questions relating to the new variants of COVID-19 which have been emerging, specifically relating to whether or not the variants are more contagious, and if vaccines will still provide sufficient protection.
There are currently 12 variants of COVID-19 worldwide. While viruses mutate all of the time, Hansen says that the resulting variants often end up being no more dangerous. However, he adds that any viral variants which have an evolutionary advantage will eventually become the dominant form of the virus.
Studies indicate that the UK variant is 55 percent more infectious, which raised the R-rate in the UK to somewhere between 1.5 and 1.7. This B.1.1.7 variant has since been identified in the United States and Canada.
Some potential explanations for the increased infectiousness of this variant include the possibility that people who have been infected shed more of the virus, remain infectious for a longer period of time, or that the variant has a higher viral load or is able to remain stable in environments outside of the body. “The most likely explanation is that it binds better to the H2 receptor, and so far this is what the evidence is suggesting,” says Hansen.
When it comes to the South African variant, Hansen acknowledges that one of the more concerning mutations may enable it to escape some of the antibodies produced by the vaccine or which remain in the body as a result of prior infection. “So far, it looks like the vaccines are still effective,” he says.
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