UC Health doctor gives insight on new COVID-19 strain found in U.S.

UC Health doctor gives insight on new COVID-19 strain found in U.S.

CINCINNATI (FOX19) - A new strain of COVID-19 previously found in the U.K., Denmark, and South Africa, has now been detected in Colorado, according to the state’s Gov. Jared Polis.

The Colorado governor announced on Tuesday a man in his 20s is in isolation with COVID-19 variant B.1.1.7. The Colorado state lab is the first in the U.S. to identify this strain, the report reads.

On the heels of this report, FOX19 NOW talked with a doctor at the University of Cincinnati Health to get his perspective on this new COVID strain. As he explains, this news isn’t all that shocking.

“It’s not surprising at all that viruses mutate and change. This is nature. Nature is always changing, it’s always adapting to its environment,” says Dr. Carl Fichtenbaum, Professor of infectious diseases at UC Health. “We change as human beings so, it’s not surprising that we’re going to see variations of the COVID virus.”

Dr. Fichtenbaum says the new variation of COVID-19 could be the result of the virus adapting to a new environment. For example, the pressure on our immune system.

“Viruses are always trying to find that same sweet spot just like basketball players adjusting their shot to get it right so they can win the NBA championship,” explains Dr. Fichtenbaum.

The difference with this strain, according to the doctor, it’s more contagious.

“It makes it more likely more able to bind onto our receptors,” says Dr. Fichtenbaum. “So, look at it this way, you have a key that’s made by somebody or a lock and the key is sometimes a little jagged edge not perfect, you have to jiggle a little to get in. This key is a lot smoother; it fits better it gets right in there and it can get right into the cell a little bit better.”

With the old strain, it might have taken encountering the virus 10 times to get sick. Whereas, with this variation, you could get sick with only five contacts.

The good news, as Dr. Fichtenbaum explains, is the COVID-19 variant B.1.1.7 doesn’t appear to be deadlier.

“It doesn’t seem to be any more serious or deadly than the first strain to us, which is good so, that evidence is encouraging,” Dr. Fichtenbaum says

But he says that does not mean people should let their guard down.

“The only way we’re going to get out of this is if we all do our part,” Dr. Fichtenbaum says. “Everybody’s got to keep wearing their masks, stay away from each other, wash their hands, be very mindful. I know it’s terrible, and it’s not what we want and it’s not the world we want, but the consequences are not good at all.”

Dr. Fichtenbaum also says this new strain of the virus would have to change a whole lot to get around the vaccines that are out.

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