Another strain has developed in South Africa, but the main focus and worry right now is over the U.K. strain

Author : torunlota
Publish Date : 2021-01-20 13:12:17


Another strain has developed in South Africa, but the main focus and worry right now is over the U.K. strain

Another strain has developed in South Africa, but the main focus and worry right now is over the U.K. strain

“This new, more infectious variant will change the underlying dynamics of the pandemic, with exponential growth in infections making the virus vastly harder to contain and overburdening our stressed health care system,” Jha says. “Without significant changes in behavior to once again ‘flatten the curve,’ each new case will result in a greater number of subsequent infections than in the past, making superspreader events more likely and more risky, and making even smaller outbreaks more explosive and harder to contain.”


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Such a surge would also have widespread additional economic repercussions, Jha and others warn.

The new strain has been detected in four U.S. states as of this writing. But most testing efforts aren’t looking for it yet.

“It’s probably more widespread than we think,” says Marc Lipsitch, PhD, a professor of epidemiology and director of the Center for Communicable Disease Dynamics at Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. There’s good reason to expect it will spread rapidly here, just as it has in the U.K., Lipsitch told reporters today. “It’s a big deal for a world that’s already stretched trying to control the old variant.”

How the math works
The original coronavirus strain was thought to have a reproduction number of about 3, meaning each person infected would infect three others, Lipsitch explains. That’s a very rough estimate that varies greatly depending on the individual and a range of circumstances. But through lockdowns, masks, and other prevention efforts, the number was reduced to 1 in the late spring and early summer — the average infection led to just one more infection, so the number of new cases leveled off.

If the new strain is 50% more infectious, then the mitigation measures that lowered the original strain’s reproduction number from 3 to 1 will lower it to only 1.5 for the new strain, Lipsitch says. Roughly speaking, he says, if each infection generates 1.5 additional cases, then in less than 2 weeks cases double, and in a month or so there would be four to five times as many cases.

“It might be a little faster than that,” Lipsitch says. “If we don’t change our control measures, once it becomes common it will accelerate transmission considerably.”

Another way of looking at it: To get the reproduction number down to 1 as the new strain becomes the dominant one, contacts with infected people would need to be cut by one-third, he says.

Though he had hoped Americans might return to some sense of normalcy by summer, the new challenge means control measures will be needed for longer, Lipsitch says. He’s advising health officials to use existing tools that can help identify the new strain, then focus contact tracing on people infected with this more worrisome variant. His message to you:

“If you are identified with that new variant, then your isolation and quarantine and contact tracing is considerably more important,” he says. “You’re doing more for the world, for the people you care about, by isolating yourself and cooperating with contact tracers than even before.”

And, as other health experts continue to plead: Mask up, hunker down as best you can, and know that this pandemic is far from over.



Category : general

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