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Dr. Fauci Just Warned of This New COVID Variant

News just broke of a new coronavirus mutation—called B.1.1.529—originating from South Africa and spreading "quickly." Experts say it has a "very unusual constellation of mutations" and that "this variant did surprise us — it has a big jump in evolution, many more mutations than we expected, especially after a very severe third wave of Delta," according to Tulio de Oliveira, director of the KwaZulu-Natal Research and Innovation Sequencing Platform, who spoke with the New York Times. As a result, the U.S. stock market tumbled and countries in Europe and elsewhere have instituted travel bans. Is this new variant going to start a whole new surge—and how can you stay safe? Read on for 5 things you need to know about this mutation, according to Dr. Anthony Fauci, the chief medical advisor to the President and the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, and Dr. Ashish Jha—and to ensure your health and the health of others, don't miss these Sure Signs You've Already Had COVID.


Dr. Fauci Warned the New Mutation "Seems to Be Spreading…at a Rapid Rate"

Medical staff work in the intensive care ward for COVID-19 patients

It's still early stages and not enough is known, but: "We just arranged right now a discussion between our scientists and the South African scientists a little bit later in the morning to really get the facts because you're hearing a lot of things back and forth," said Dr. Fauci on CNN's New Day. "We want to find out, with the scientists, exactly what is going on, but it's something that has emerged in South Africa and seems to be spreading in at a reasonably rapid rate in the sense of when they do test positivity, they're seeing that it's a bit more widespread in South Africa than was originally felt a couple of days ago. So it's in a fluid motion. We're finding more about it. And literally it's something that in real time, we're learning more and more about." Read on to see if he thinks it's in the USA already.


Is is Possible the New Variant is in the USA?

Is it possible the new variant is already in the United States? "Anything is possible," said Dr. Fauci. "We don't know that there's any indication that it is right now. It seemed to have been restricted. There was some cases that originated in South Africa and then it went to Botswana and people who traveled and found out they were infected in one that had gone to Hong Kong. So there's a lot of travel. You never know exactly where we are, and that's the reason why we're getting together to try and get the precise molecular makeup of it. So you could actually test for it. And that's something that'll take a little bit to put the appropriate materials together to do that, but we are in very active communication with our South African colleagues, scientists," he said on New Day.

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Dr. Fauci Said More Study Was Needed Before Knowing if the Mutation Evades Immunity

Asian microbiologist biotechnology researcher using microscope in the lab.

Will this new mutation get around our immunity—immunity via the vaccines, for example, or even our natural immunity if you've already had an infection? "That's what we're going to be finding out," said Dr. Fauci. "Because when you look at a mutation, it can give you a hint or a prediction that it might evade the immune response. What you need to do is, you need to get that particular sequence of the virus, put it in a form in the lab where you can actually test the different antibodies. So you can have a prediction that it might evade, or you can actually prove it right now. We're getting the material together with our South African colleagues to get a situation where you could actually directly test it. So right now you're talking about sort of like a red flag that this might be an issue, but we don't know once you test that, you'll know for sure whether or not it does or does not evade the antibodies that we make. For example, against the virus, through a vaccine or following convalescent, after you get infected, when you get antibodies, those antibodies protect you against this new virus. The answer is we don't know right now, but we're going to find out for sure," he said on New Day.


Virus Expert Says Here's What You Need to Know

Healthcare worker with protective equipment performs coronavirus swab on a woman.

"Every few months, we hear about a new variant. Most turn out to not be much. Well, unfortunately, there's a new variant B.1.1.529 that is concerning. What do we know so far? A few things but not a lot. Reminder: when it comes to variants, we focus on three things. What are those three to pay attention to?" asked Dr. Ashish Jha, Dean of the Brown University School of Public Health:

"Is it more transmissible than current strain (Delta)?

Does it cause more severe disease?

And does have it more immune escape (will it render prior infections or vaccines less effective)?

So let's talk quickly about what we know. It has taken off quickly in South Africa. This graphs look concerning. But with case numbers in SA low right now, rapid takeover could be driven in part by other factors. So yes, am worried about transmissibility. But not sure

The next issue is whether it causes more severe disease. We have no idea. Too early to tell — but obviously needs to be tracked closely. Third issue is around immune escape. Do antibodies generated by our immune system have a harder to neutralizing it? 

And what about T-cells and their ability to manage infections? Short answer? We don't know but there is at least some reason for concern. There are a series of mutations in key regions that may impact effectiveness of our vaccines. Render vaccines useless? No. Super unlikely.

So let's track this closely. We'll know more in coming days to weeks. There will be those who will spread fear — and those who will downplay it. Please ignore both groups. This variant is concerning. We should ramp up testing (our PCR tests will still work).

In fact our PCR test should help us track B.1.1.529 when it arrives here in the US. And it surely will arrive here. So stay vigilant. Get vaccinated, boosted. Get the world vaccinated. And let's get more data to better understand what (if anything) we need to do differently."

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How to Stay Safe Out There

Woman with face mask getting vaccinated, coronavirus, covid-19 and vaccination concept.

Follow the public health fundamentals and help end this pandemic, no matter where you live—get vaccinated ASAP; if you live in an area with low vaccination rates, wear an N95 face mask, don't travel, social distance, avoid large crowds, don't go indoors with people you're not sheltering with (especially in bars), practice good hand hygiene, and to protect your life and the lives of others, don't visit any of these 35 Places You're Most Likely to Catch COVID.

The post Dr. Fauci Just Warned of This New COVID Variant appeared first on Eat This Not That.

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