Wednesday Aug 10, 2022
Wednesday Aug 10, 2022

New coronavirus variant in New York spurs caution, concern


Nepalnews
2021 Feb 26, 7:39, NEW YORK
In this Wednesday, Feb. 24, 2021 , people wait in line at a mass vaccination site in the Queens borough of New York. This FEMA run site, along with another in Brooklyn, gives priority to local residents in an effort to equitably distribute the vaccine. Researchers have flagged another mutated version of the coronavirus spreading in New York but experts say it’s too soon to know if the variant will be problematic. (Photo/Seth Wenig, Pool)

Another mutated version of the coronavirus has popped up in New York City, and experts reacted to the news with a mixture of caution and concern.

The C first appeared in the New York area in late November, and has since cropped up in neighboring states, according to researchers at the California Institute of Technology, one of two teams to share their work this week.

But how problematic the variant maybe isn’t known yet. Viruses are constantly mutating — or making typos in their genetic code — as they spread and make copies of themselves.

“Most are not of particular concern,” said Francois Balloux, director of the University College London’s Genetics Institute.

However, he added, “Noticing them early, flagging them, raising concern is useful.”

That’s because some genetic tweaks can be worrisome, especially if they help the virus spread more easily, make it more deadly or curb the effectiveness of vaccines. Scientists use genome sequencing and other research to figure out which are a potential problem.

New York City health officials and Mayor Bill de Blasio on Thursday sought to tamp down worries about the new variant, emphasizing that the new research is preliminary and little is known about the variant.

“Some variants are just that, they’re variants.” said Dr. Jay Varma, senior health adviser to the mayor.

WHAT DID THEY FIND IN NEW YORK?

Two research groups — at Caltech and Columbia University in New York — released papers this week describing their findings about the new variant. Neither paper has been published or reviewed by other scientists.

The Caltech researchers found that the new variant showed up in about a quarter of the 1,200 virus sequences they looked at this month. The variant has also shown up in New Jersey and Connecticut and has made “isolated appearances across the country,” said CalTech’s Anthony West, a co-author of the paper.

On Thursday, Columbia University researchers released their research that scrutinized about 1,100 virus samples from patients treated at the university’s medical center, dating back to November. During the second week of February, the new variant was identified in 12% of the samples, they reported. They also found patients infected with the mutated virus were more likely to be older and have been hospitalized.


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