UK variant in West Virginia, now what?


CHARLESTON, WV (WOWK) — “When someone has a positive test then you can take the fluid that has the RNA and they expand that and then they look at the sequence of nucleotides that they have in that particular virus and if it’s different than they have a mutation,” said Dr. Sally Hodder, director of West Virginia University’s Clinical and Translational Science Institute.

Dr. Hodder was attempting to explain genetic sequencing in the simplest terms.

Researchers at WVU have been looking for COVID-19 variants using genetic sequencing.

On Friday they announced they detected the UK COVID-19 variant in three people, two of whom are WVU students.

“West Virginia and the Governor and Dr. Clay Marsh have done a good job, but the problem is with these variants — and others have said this — we’re in a race between getting the vaccine out so we can stop the transmission and when that virus can’t replicate then you can’t have a transmission of the variant,” she said.

That’s why both Dr. Hodder and Kanawha Charleston Health Department Officer Dr. Sherri Young say it’s important to stay the course right now; masking up, washing hands, and continuing to vaccinate, so that the virus can’t replicate and lead to more outbreaks, and even more variants.

“What we’re doing is working, even if the UK variant is here,” said Dr. Young.

Currently, there are three known variants of the coronavirus: the UK variant, the Brazil variant, and the South African variant.

“It’s a natural course for viruses to mutate anyway, it’s part of the life cycle,” said Dr. Young.

Both the Pfizer and the Moderna vaccine are said to be effective against the known variants, but because the UK variant of the COVID-19 strain is more contagious, Dr. Hodder says it may not quite be the time to head back to the restaurants yet.

Despite Governor Jim Justice relaxing COVID-19 capacities at businesses.

“My personal opinion is, you know, at this time when we’re trying to scale up vaccination, when it’s so important to shut down replication, that it may be prudent to really reconsider and do everything we can at this point so the virus is shut down,” she said.

Hodder says both vaccines are messenger RNA vaccines, which means they could easily put another code in for another variant if needed.

The issue would be if variants develop that are resistant to the vaccine.

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