As the U.S. is starting to see a faint light at the end of the tunnel in terms of battling the coronavirus with a new vaccine, that light might be extinguishing itself.
A new mutant strain of the virus was just discovered in the U.K. and it is said to be as much as 70% more transmissible than the current version. There are also tell-tale signs of it spreading more easily among children.
Canada, as well as dozens of other countries, which excludes the U.S., have already placed travel bans against visiting England. But Dr. Fauci, among others, has said the travel ban won’t do America any good because in all likelihood the mutant strain is already here.
The former head of the FDA, Scott Gottlieb, said the new strain “is already in the US” and that a travel ban is not going to help. Gottlieb warned, “As the virus continues to spread around the world, we’re going to start to see more of these variants.”
University of Massachusetts virologist, Jeremy Luban, believes the new strain “may have even started here.” His suggestion is based on the fact of how the UK has a genome sequencing program highly lauded as being the best in the world, while the program being used in the US which is sporadic at best. According to him, this is the only reason the U.K. was able to detect it first.
“It may very well be here. It may have even started here. The sequencing in the US is so sporadic,” Luban said.
On Good Morning America, Dr. Fauci said “I would not be surprised at all if it’s already here.” He said that mandatory might be required to enter the U.S. but a travel ban would be a “rather dramatic step.”
This appears to be the general consensus.
Dr. Shira Doron, an epidemiologist in Boston, said that she “can’t imagine it wouldn’t be’ in the United States already. Would I expect to see that variance in the US? Of course. People are traveling all the time. I would expect to see that.”
Yet another, Dr. Angela Rasmussen, a virologist at the Georgetown Center for Global Health Science and Security, said it wouldn’t shock her in the least to find out the new mutant strain is already living amongst us.
Rasmussen said, “I don’t think a travel ban is going to be particularly helpful. We already have an out-of-control transmission of all the variants that are circulating in the US here. It makes sense that it was detected first in the UK because they have probably the world’s best surveillance program.”
Calum Semple, a scientist on the UK’s advisory panel, believes this new variant will eventually dominate the virus by out-competing all other known strains.
The coronavirus has long been viewed as not being as dangerous to children as it is to adults, and that it is not as easily spread to youngsters. But this newly discovered strain is a whole new ballgame.
“There is a hint that it has a higher propensity to infect children,” said Neil Ferguson from the University College London, an epidemiologist who also sits on the advisory panel.
“We haven’t established any sort of causality on that, but we can see it in the data,’ said Ferguson. ‘We will need to gather more data to see how it behaves going forward.”
“What we’ve seen is, during the lockdown in England we saw a general distribution of the virus towards children, and that was true in the variant and the non-variant, and it is what we would expect, given that we had locked down which reduced adult contact but schools were still open.”
“But what we’ve seen over the course of a five or six-week period is consistently the proportion of [cases] for the variant in under-15s was statistically significantly higher than the non-variant virus. We are still investigating the significance of that.”
Because of the recent discovery, the White House coronavirus task force is considering requiring passengers arriving in the U.S. from the UK to have tested negatively within 72 hours of their departure. Canada has already instituted this rule along with 40 other countries.
In the meantime all the U.S. can do is to wait it out and see what develops. Perhaps the existing vaccine will also work on this new strain, but this has yet to be determined. Gotta love 2020.