VCU Health doctor outlines what you need to know about new COVID-19 strains

Coronavirus

RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — A handful of new coronavirus strains have emerged overseas and health officials believe they are more contagious than the original. 

Variants have been found in Brazil, South Africa, and Brazil, and according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the UK variant is twice as contagious. 

Dr. Michelle Doll, an assistant professor in the Department of Internal Medicine at VCU and specialist in infectious diseases, says while these new strains are more contagious, scientists don’t believe they are more deadly. 

“Scientists studying this variant thing you don’t get any sicker than with the most widely circulating virus, but we don’t have enough data yet to be completely sure,” Dr. Doll said. “Public health experts are keeping a close eye on the outcomes of infections with these variants.” 

As far as the vaccine, Dr. Doll does not believe the current vaccines will be affected by the new strains. The company Pfizer studied the U.K. strain and found it did not seem to affect the efficacy of the vaccine. 

While that is the case now, Dr.Doll says “we may reach a time down the road where vaccine efficacy is affected.” 

The best way to prevent these strains from overwhelming hospitals is by getting vaccines into arms and limiting community spread, Dr. Doll said. 

No new strains have been detected in Virginia, but Doll said now is not the time to let your guard down. 

“The numbers right now are terrible, and I think there is a lot of fatigue with the social distancing and isolation,” she said. “It’s been hard to avoid activities that we love to do. However, this winter is going to be a vulnerable time with hospitals potentially getting very full.” 

The necessary precautions are the same as before: washing hands, masking, and social distancing. 

To read the complete interview, click here.

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