BUFFALO, N.Y. (WKBW) — Governor Andrew Cuomo has sounded the alarm over a new coronavirus strain discovered in the United Kingdom, but Dr. Thomas Russo, Chief of Infectious Disease at the University at Buffalo's Jacobs School of Medicine, says don't panic.
"The new coronavirus like all virus, like all viruses, is able to mutate. This new virus has been mutating slowly since it was first described back at the end of December in 2019," Dr. Russo said.
Governor Cuomo discussed the risk of the new strain of COVID-19 in his Monday press briefing.
"This is very concerning. This new strain that they have found in the U.K.," Cuomo said.
Dr. Russo explained the reason scientists have called attention to the strain of COVID spreading in the U.K. and South Africa is because it is causing an increasing proportion of new cases.
Governor Cuomo warned this version of the virus is more transmittable than strains of the coronavirus previously seen.
"70 times more says Boris Johnson. This is a major problem," Cuomo said.
But Dr. Russo said it may be too soon to definitively draw that conclusion.
"At this point, we're not 100% sure that this new variant is truly more infectious. It's based on the fact that this new variant accounts for an increasing proportion of strains in the UK and in South Africa. Whether that's due to one individual that was a good spreader of the virus happened to be infected with this or not or whether it's truly more infectious is something that would be sorted out in the next several weeks," Dr. Russo said.
Governor Cuomo said he believes this new strain of the coronavirus could already exist within the United States.
"It wouldn't surprise me if this vaccine is already here in the United States," Dr. Russo said.
"know and I believe if my intuition is correct, that this is another disaster waiting to happen," Governor Cuomo said.
Dr. Russo said as of right now, there is no reason to believe the vaccine would be ineffective against this strain of COVID.
"At this point the evidence suggests these new mutations will not affect the efficacy of the vaccine," Dr. Russo said.
Dr. Russo said we already know what to do to prevent this strain from spreading.
"Everyone should realize that if they follow public health measures, wear a mask and do appropriate physical distancing and hand hygiene, that regardless of how infectious the strain is, that will protect them from getting infected," Dr. Russo said.