The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) is warning that a highly-contagious United Kingdom “variant” of Covid-19 has been reported in at least ten states.
But a top government expert in the coronavirus pandemic recently told me that development is entirely expected and not something that signals a crisis alarm.
Dr. John Dye, the lead virologist at the U.S. Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases says if a different “strain” were discovered, that would be more concerning than a “variant.”
“Right now, there's a lot of talk about the different variants of the virus. And that's not a surprise to me, viruses are evolving animals in a way. They are constantly changing, they are evolving as we evolve,” says Dr. Dye.
I asked what is the difference between a “strain” and a “variant.”
“It's virology speak,” says Dr. Dye. “There has to be a certain amount of genetic diversity between one isolate and another isolate to say these are distinct ‘strains’ of a virus…When you talk about different strains, you have a better chance of having a vaccine or a treatment not work because it's more divergent.”
But with different “variants,” he says, the existing treatments and vaccines are more likely to work.
“So, it's not necessarily more alarming that we're seeing this United Kingdom variant identified in the United States?” I asked.
“It was a matter of time before it got here,” says Dye.
The U.K. variant was first reported in mid-December. CDC thinks it might have actually emerged a few months before in September. More than two dozen counties have reported positive tests for the U.K. variant.