SANTA CLARA COUNTY, Calif. — A new variant of the coronavirus, first detected in India, has been diagnosed in the San Francisco Bay Area and is believed to be the first of its kind discovered in the United States.
The variant, believed to be responsible for a recent surge in India’s COVID-19 cases, is classified as a double mutation, KNTV reported.
To date, Stanford University experts have confirmed only one case involving the new variant countywide, but more are expected, the TV station reported.
“We identified this new Indian variant last week just immediately after it was reported in the lay press,” Dr. Ben Pinsky, director of the Stanford Clinical Virology Lab, confirmed to KTVU.
The variant, which Indian media has dubbed the Double Mutant, possesses two mutations that make it more easily transmissible, but research has not yet determined if it is a more dangerous variation of the virus, both outlets reported.
“It’s just less forgiving,” Dr. Peter Chin Hong, a medical educator who specializes in treating infectious diseases at the University of California San Francisco, told KTVU. “With the Indian variant, you get the very, very similar symptoms. The main difference is that it’s much easier to transmit.”
Despite the emergent variant’s increased transmissibility, Chin Hong said that the United Kingdom variant, B.1.1.7., remains more transmissible, and he believes all current vaccine options should be effective in protecting against it.
“I, in my heart of hearts, believe that the vaccines will still be effective against this new Indian variant based on some of the information we’ve been getting about the even scary variants, like the South Africa variant, and how Pfizer’s vaccine is actually effective against it,” he told the TV station.
Meanwhile, Stanford’s Dr. Dean Winslow, a professor of medicine and a former infectious disease consultant to the U.S. Air Force surgeon general, told KNTV there is “no definite evidence” that the Double Mutant is “more virulent or causes more severe disease” than other known variations.
“Most (vaccinated) people will mount an immune response. Maybe it will not protect against an all-out infection but at least (a vaccine) will protect against moderate or severe disease,” Winslow said.
According to KTVU, Stanford is currently testing seven more presumed cases of the Indian variant.
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