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Dr. Fauci Just Warned New COVID Mutation May Be "More Transmissible"

How worried should we be about the new coronavirus variant? 
FACT CHECKED BY Alek Korab
Dr. Anthony Fauci

The news of a new strain of the COVID-19 virus, likely significantly more transmissible than the first, has sparked fear across the world. The newest variant, dubbed VUI-202012/01 (the first Variant Under Investigation in December 2020), was first detected in the United Kingdom and has spread rapidly since September. While experts are confident that is up to 70 percent more transmissible than the first variant, is it any more deadly?

During an interview with CBS News on Wednesday, Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation's top infectious disease expert and the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, weighed in—read on, and to ensure your health and the health of others, don't miss these Sure Signs You've Already Had Coronavirus

The Mutation Is More Transmissible

Fauci started off by explaining how mutations work. "This virus is an RNA virus," he said. "RNA viruses mutate all the time—the more infection, and the more replication you have, the more likelihood is that you're going to get mutations." 

He then went on to point out that the variant identified in the UK is "a dominant viral strain that is expressing a mutation, which they believe might be causative in the sense of making it more transmissible. Not a hundred percent sure of that yet, but let's for the sake of being conservative about it, let's assume that this variant is actually more transmissible." 

It Doesn't Seem to Be Deadlier

He then went on to answer the question of whether it is more deadly or results in a more serious illness. "It doesn't seem to be any indication that that's the case," he revealed. "We've got to take it seriously," and do more studies, he said.

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How Will It Impact the Vaccine?

In terms of how this mutation will respond to the new vaccines, Dr. Fauci isn't too concerned, pointing out that most mutations have "no relevant, functional impact, they just occur and they are irrelevant."

However, "every once in a while, you'll get a mutation that does have an important impact that you're going to have to respond to such as modifying the vaccine, which we have to do frequently with influenza. Like almost every year, you have to make a modification," he pointed out.

To his knowledge, this isn't the case with this latest mutation. "We're going to follow it carefully, but thus far doesn't drift the way influenza does," he said. "So I'm not predicting that we're going to have to every year get a new vaccine. I think that would be a bit of a stretch to make that assumption." 

The good news is, despite the fact that "we're only one year into this need to be very careful," even if the mutation does require a tweak to the vaccination, it shouldn't be a problem. "If we do need to make adjustments, I believe we can make those adjustments," he said. 

RELATED: If You Feel This, You May Have Already Had COVID, Says Dr. Fauci

How to Survive This Pandemic

As for yourself, follow Fauci's fundamentals and help end this surge, no matter where you live—wear a face mask, social distance, avoid large crowds, don't go indoors with people you're not sheltering with (especially in bars), practice good hand hygiene, get vaccinated when it becomes available to you, 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.