Extra instances of mutant COVID-19 pressure reported     | Native Information

BOSTON – A contagious mutation in the coronavirus is emerging in laboratory tests in Massachusetts as public health experts warn it could become the dominant strain.

Over the weekend, the State Department of Public Health reported at least 19 new cases of the new COVID-19 variant called B.1.1.7., Bringing the number of cases to 29 since the mutation was first discovered last month.

According to health officials, the new variant, first reported in the UK, is more contagious than other strains and is similar to the mutations recently identified in South Africa and Brazil.

Much of the cases reported so far were in Worcester County, and the patients were between 4 and 70 years old, according to the Department of Health. Only four were travel-related, suggesting that most of the known cases were “community acquired”.

To date, no cases of the mutated virus have been reported in Essex County.

The growth in cases with the mutation underscores the need for people to be vaccinated quickly and continue to take precautions, health officials warn.

“The best defense against a rapid surge in cases due to worrying variants is to prevent the spread of COVID-19,” said a health ministry statement.

Dr. David Hamer, a professor in the School of Public Health and School of Medicine at Boston University, said the coronavirus is constantly mutating and it may only be a matter of time before these variants become vaccine resistant.

“Hopefully with the first full round of vaccination we can get closer to some level of herd immunity and better control over the virus,” he said. “But in the future, when we look for boosters for the vaccines, changes need to be made to better cover the current strains.”

According to Hamer, recent studies raise concerns that vaccines against a mutation first discovered in South Africa may not work as well.

More than 1,000 cases of the British tribe have been identified in at least 39 states and several countries. New Hampshire reported its first case last week.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention predict that the British variant will be the dominant strain in the country by next month.

“We estimate that about 4% of diseases in this country are related to B.1.1.7,” said Dr. Rochelle Walensky, director of the CDC, told CBS News on Sunday. “And we have forecasts that it could be the dominant burden by the end of March.”

According to Walensky, drug companies are testing new versions of COVID-19 vaccines that specifically target the coronavirus variants, while federal researchers review data from people who have already received the vaccines to see if they can become infected a second time.

“We’re doing the science to scale different vaccines in case we need either bivalent vaccines, that is, a vaccine with two different strains, or booster vaccines,” she said.

Christian M. Wade reports on the Massachusetts Statehouse for the North of Boston Media Group’s newspapers and websites. Email to [email protected].

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