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How to Protect Yourself From the Mutated COVID Strain

Some experts say it’s responsible for the “out of control” coronavirus spread in the U.K.
FACT CHECKED BY Checkmark Alek Korab
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Over the weekend it was revealed that a new coronavirus variant has been detected in the United Kingdom—and appears to be much more infectious than the virus we are currently battling in the United States. Health experts believe that this mutation is responsible for the recent surge of COVID-19 cases in Southern England. On December 19, U.K. prime minister Boris Johnson addressed the news during a press conference, announcing new restrictions, including a total lockdown in London and southwest England. "It seems that the spread is now being driven by the new variant," Johnson explained. "It does appear that it is passed on significantly more easily." Read on to learn more about what it means for you—and to ensure your health and the health of others, don't miss these Sure Signs You've Already Had Coronavirus

1

'There Is a Spike Protein Mutation'

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Darren Mareiniss, MD, Assistant Professor of Emergency Medicine at Sidney Kimmel Medical College – Thomas Jefferson University, tells Eat This, Not That! Health that the virus has changed. "There is a spike protein mutation," he explains. 

Experts have dubbed the new strain VUI – 202012/01 — and according to England's Chief Medical Officer Chris Whitty it is responsible for 60% of new infections in the capital, which have nearly doubled in the last week alone.

2

It Isn't the First Time This Has Happened

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"The coronavirus has had a multitude of variations since last March," he explains. "Most mutations have not affected the virus or its spread." 

3

Experts Believe The New Variant Is Significantly More Transmissible 

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According to experts in the U.K. who have conducted preliminary calculation, the new strain of coronavirus could be up to 70% more transmissible. "The most recent mutation involves the viral spike protein and is thought to increase transmission," Dr. Mareiniss explains.

RELATED: COVID Symptoms Usually Appear in This Order, Study Finds

4

There Is No Evidence the New Strain Is More Deadly

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While the new strain of coronavirus is more transmissible, there is no evidence it is more deadly.  "It's very important for people to know that viruses mutate all the time. And that does not mean that this virus is any more dangerous," Surgeon General of the United States Jerome Adams explained on Sunday on Face the Nation. "We don't even know if it's really more contagious yet or not, or if it just happened to be a strain that was involved in a super spreader event right now, we have no indications that it is going to hurt our ability to continue vaccinating people or that it is any more dangerous or deadly than the strains that are currently out there."

5

It Isn't Clear How Vaccine Efficacy Will Be Impacted—If At All

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While Dr. Mareiness does confirm that "some prior mutations have increased infectivity" of the vaccine, he doesn't want to speculate on how this specific variant will impact vaccine efficacy. Over the weekend, medical experts attempted to reassure the public that it isn't likely that it will, as the mutation was likely too subtle to impact efficacy. And, worst case scenario, similar to the flu vaccine it could be tweaked to keep up with mutations. 

Scientists in the United States at the Walter Reed Army Institute of Research are currently investigating it, and will likely have an answer later this week. 

6

Other Countries Are Taking Precautionary Measures

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As of Sunday the several countries in Europe—including Italy, Ireland, Germany, France, and the Netherlands— the Middle East and Americas had restricted travel to the U.K. due to the new strain. France even opted to shut its borders to travelers from the U.K., closing the U.K.-France Eurotunnel.

RELATED: Dr. Fauci Just Said When We'd Be Back to "Normal"

7

How to Protect Yourself From the Mutated COVID Strain 

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During his appearance on Face the Nation, Dr. Adams revealed that the best way to protect yourself from the new strain is to continue following suggested protocol. "The most relevant point is that it doesn't change anything we've been telling you," Dr. Adams pointed out. "It just further reinforces the fact that we need to wash our hands, wear our mask lots, keep your distances, keep our household gathering small because if this is a mutation that is more contagious, then that just means that we need to be that much more vigilant while we wait to get vaccinated." 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.