Coronavirus

4:13 PM, Feb 27, 2020

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Ask Dr. Nandi: Michigan has case of new variant of COVID. Here’s what we need to know

Virus Outbreak France
Posted at 5:28 PM, Jan 18, 2021
and last updated 2021-01-18 21:14:15-05

(WXYZ) — The new mutated coronavirus strain first detected in Britain has been confirmed here in Michigan. Health officials say it’s only a matter of weeks before it’ll become the dominant strain.

Scientists at the Michigan Bureau of Laboratories were the ones who found the UK variant in a test sample.

The woman is from Washtenaw County and had recently returned from a trip to the United Kingdom.

Unfortunately, two close contacts of the woman have also been infected. But we’re not yet sure if they have the same UK strain or not. And that’s because it takes time – at least five days – to fully sequence a test sample.

When I say sequence, I am referring to whole-genome sequencing. This is a scientific method used to identify genetic variations in DNA. In this case, it’s used to find out if a person has a mutated strain or not.

The UK strain was first detected in September and has spread to 30 countries. And it’s now in at least 10 states here in the US – with the CDC predicting that by March, this strain will be behind over half of the new infections.

The reasons why higher numbers are likely in our future comes down to a few things.

Since the UK variant is supposed to spread faster - about 50% faster - that could mean the virus spreading to three people instead of just two people. And then each of those people happens to infect three others and so on. With more people getting infected, that could mean more people getting seriously sick. This means more folks at the hospitals and possibly overwhelming our health care systems and resources.

Now, this strain is not more deadly. But more infections often mean a higher number of illnesses and that often leads to more deaths.

Getting vaccinated would certainly make an impact. And hopefully, the process of getting these shots into Michiganer’s arms will speed up. We really do need to get more people vaccinated quickly.

But while people wait, it’s vital that we don’t let pandemic fatigue get the best of us. Yes, many people are tired, frustrated, and want this pandemic over. I get that. But that’s not a reason to let our guard down. Don’t let feelings of impatience drive you to make bad decisions.

This new virus strain can now more easily latch onto our cells. We need to be careful. The end is in sight. So please continue to wear masks, wash hands, physically distance yourselves from others not in you your household and limit social interactions.

Additional Coronavirus information and resources:

View a global coronavirus tracker with data from Johns Hopkins University.

See complete coverage on our Coronavirus Continuing Coverage page.

Visit our The Rebound Detroit, a place where we are working to help people impacted financially from the coronavirus. We have all the information on everything available to help you through this crisis and how to access it.