New COVID-19 strain reported in the U.S.

Updated: Dec. 30, 2020 at 7:12 PM CST
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BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WBRC) - Health officials in Colorado said they think they’ve found a second case of a new strain of COVID-19.

Doctors here in Alabama said this new strain appears to spread more easily from person to person than the original virus, and that’s the last thing we need with health care systems already stressed.

Medical Director of Disease Control for the Jefferson County Department of Health, Dr. Wesley Willeford, said so far, there’s no indication that a new variant of COVID-19 will increase the severity of the virus, but it may be too soon to tell.

“Fewer particles exhaled from someone coming in contact with someone else is going to mean a higher chance of infection, and so I think what that means is that we have to have very robust uptake of the vaccines across our population to really drive this down through herd immunity,” Dr. Willeford said.

Symptoms like the loss of smell and taste, coughing, fever and headaches are still signs with new strain that you may have the virus, and it’s still possible to be asymptomatic.

“Something that we’re still struggling to understand with COVID-19 is why exactly some people are truly asymptomatic but infected with the virus and some people get incredibly sick with it,” Dr. Willeford said.

Dr. Willeford said the vaccines and therapies we have available right now should still work at treating the new strain, and standard tests we currently use will detect it, but without specialized testing, it’s hard to know if more of the new strain is in the United States than what’s been reported.

“What I’m worried about is the fact that there is so much COVID-19 in our community right now that the chances of even a small gathering having someone who tests positive for COVID-19 is incredibly high. I think the bigger and more pressing problem we have right now is just how much COVID-19 we have in our community and how overstretched our hospitals are,” Dr. Willeford explained.

Researchers have been saying all along that they wouldn’t be surprised if COVID-19 mutated as viruses tend to do, but Dr. Willeford said the thing that’s keeping him and other health care providers up at night is the level of tragedy and human toll this will have on health care systems.

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