BOSTON (CBS) – There is a new strain of coronavirus in the United Kingdom that some health experts are saying is more contagious. At least 40 countries are now closing borders, cutting off trade routes and restricting travel with the U.K., resulting in chaotic scenes at airports and on the roads.
Dr. Shira Doron is an epidemiologist at Tufts Medical Center and says the new strain is, “cause for scientific attention, it’s not cause for panic.”
Dr. Doron says it’s too early to know if the new strain causes illnesses to be more severe. “It is not a foregone conclusion that this strain is actually something that is going to behave any differently than the virus we already know,” Doron says.
The new strain comes as coronavirus vaccines are now being administered. Dr. Doron says the vaccines we have now will likely work on this latest variant of the virus. “We have every reason to believe that the vaccine will be just as effective against this new strain,” she says, “it has been tested against multiple strains.”
Mutations are normal for viruses, and health experts have seen coronavirus change since the beginning of the pandemic. “We’ve been doing this for 11 months,” she said. “We have seen mutations, plenty of mutations.” Those changes can be beneficial to epidemiologists like Dr. Doron because the virus can be traced based on the various strains. “You can actually see how the virus is traveling across the world,” Doron said.
While it’s not known for certain if the new strain is more contagious, Dr. Doron says, “if this Particular strain of the virus is more contagious, we want to contain it where it is.” She says that’s why travel restrictions make sense, “to give scientist time to answer some of the questions.”
New York Governor Andrew Cuomo has called for a pause in flights from the U.K. to his state, something Dr. Doron agrees with. “I don’t think that’s a bad idea at all,” said Doron.
Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker says the state is looking for more guidance from the FAA and CDC before making any determinations about travel restrictions into Logan Airport.