WHO says Covid is mutating at slower rate than flu as new strain in U.Ok. appears more contagious

World Health Organization (WHO) Chief scientist Soumya Swaminathan on January 12, 2020 in Geneva.

FABRICE COFFRINI | AFP by way of Getty Images

World Health Organization officers mentioned Monday that the coronavirus is mutating “at a much slower rate” than seasonal influenza, even as officers in the U.Ok. introduced this weekend {that a} new mutation of the virus is permitting it to unfold more simply.

Seasonal influenza mutates so typically that scientists should commonly develop new vaccines to inoculate the inhabitants towards the virus yearly. U.Ok. officers have instructed the WHO that the Covid-19 vaccines look like simply as efficient towards the new strain, however more analysis is wanted. While all viruses naturally mutate, not each mutation makes a virus more contagious or more virulent.

“SARS-CoV-2 is mutating at a much slower rate than influenza,” WHO chief scientist Soumya Swaminathan mentioned at a press briefing. “And so far, even though we’ve seen a number of changes and a number of mutations, none has made a significant impact on either the susceptibility of the virus to any of the currently used therapeutics, drugs, or the vaccines under development, and one hopes that that will continue to be the case.”

WHO officers reiterated that officers from the U.Ok. have mentioned the new variant may very well be as much as 70% more transmissible than the unique strain of the virus. Dr. Mike Ryan, govt director of the WHO’s well being emergencies program, mentioned it was unclear if the rise in unfold in the U.Ok. is as a result of mutation or human habits.

“We’ve seen an estimate of a small increase in the reproductive number by the U.K.,” he mentioned, which means the virus is spreading sooner, which might imply it is more contagious or spreads more simply in colder months. It might additionally imply persons are getting lax about following public well being protocols. “It remains to be seen how much of that is due to the specific genetic change in the new variant. I suspect some.”

Maria Van Kerkhove, head of the WHO’s rising ailments and zoonosis unit, mentioned U.Ok. officers estimate that the mutation has precipitated a rise in the reproductive rate of the virus from 1.1 to 1.5. That implies that every particular person contaminated with the variant is estimated to contaminate one other 1.5 folks, up from 1.1 when contaminated with the unique variant.

She added that officers are investigating three components of the new variant. She mentioned scientists are wanting into whether or not it spreads more simply, whether or not it causes more or much less extreme illness, and the way the antibody responds to an an infection. Van Kerkhove and others emphasised that there doesn’t look like any impression on the effectiveness of the Covid vaccines on the new variant.

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