LA County investigation if new COVID strains are spreading locally

Scientists in Los Angeles County have begun testing coronovirus samples from local patients to determine whether a new, more contagious strain has arrived in the UK, as some officials believe the infection There is a big reason for this.

Officials said the variant is a concern because it makes it easier to transfer the virus from one person to another. But once a person has the virus, the variant does not show the person more likely to die.

LA County Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer said a public health lab has begun gene sequencing to test virus samples collected in LA County, but the process will take about a week to finish.

COVID-19 has spiraled out of control in Los Angeles County and other parts of California, overwhelming hospitals and killing more people each day. On Thursday, LA County saw Most COVID-19 deaths On the same day: 140.

The spread has become so enticing since Thanksgiving, when many families have disregarded public health guidelines and gathered in large groups that some have wondered if something has changed about COVID. Officials believe the spike has worsened with holiday celebrations, but are also concerned about other factors, including those going out to shop.

“When I spoke with the state’s Department of Public Health, they indicated that they were watching and they did not think they had noticed” the new strain, Ferrer told the Times in an interview. “But you know, you have to know what you’re looking at. So I think at this point everybody’s seeing this kind of boom, obviously wants to see if we have any special Is the version? ‘

LA Mayor Eric Garcetti said a new version of coronavirus could be a recent eruption factor in coronavirus cases, as well as other factors, including epidemic fatigue, holiday celebrations and winter weather, which may be more conducive to transmission. .

“This catastrophe happened quickly. I said that everyone had this acceleration beyond any model and any expectation, so people say ‘what broke?’ And I think it’s partly the tension out there, “Garcetti said in an interview with The Times on Wednesday.

A memo released by the LA County Department of Public Health on Christmas occasion required labs to review recent data from positive coronovirus tests to look for a specific gene detection pattern as well as any unusual molecular patterns said.

“Scientists are working to understand more about this version to better understand how easily it can be transmitted and whether currently authorized vaccines will protect people about it. At this time, there is no evidence that this variation increases the risk of more severe disease or death, or that the available vaccines will not be as effective.

Scientists have identified this new, more contagious strain of coronovirus found in Europe and South Africa, a discovery that led government officials to renew several lockdown measures in England and with Britain in many countries around the world Announced a ban on incoming flights. .

The United States relaxed the ban, but the US Center for Disease Control and Prevention said UK airline passengers would have to undergo a negative coronavirus test before their flight.

The discovery of the new strain also caused the British government to take measures for lockdown, including travel restrictions and the closure of pubs, gyms, theaters and hair salons, in response to the findings that genetic changes to the new strain caused the virus Can make 70% more communicable than. “

Gov. Gavin Newsome said Monday that California is regularly testing thousands of virus samples to identify any mutations in the virus’s genome sequencing. “We haven’t seen anything related to a new strain yet,” Newsom said.

California Secretary of Health and Human Services Drs. Mark Gali said on Monday that the newly identified strain in the UK was essentially “slightly more sticky than the COVID virus we are seeing to date.”

“For COVID to enter a human cell, it needs to bind to a receptor, like a front door on a human cell,” said Gali. “And the new, mutated COVID virus seems a bit tight, a little more easily bound and makes the human body cell easier than our current COVID virus that we have here in California and the United States.”

Mutated stress results in people “more likely to become infected if you were exposed to the current strain,” said Gali.

The new strain has not shown itself to be more viral than the traditional version, meaning that people do not necessarily get sick. “But the fact that it infects more easily seems to be what we’re worried about.”

If the more contagious strain of the virus begins to gain a foothold in California, it’s unclear how the state’s efforts to stop the current version of the virus might affect it. “The last thing we want to do is to let a new strain of COVID come in and spread quickly or easily across the state,” Gali said.

A major concern about the new version is that in theory, there may be genetic changes that could be opposed to vaccines made by Pfizer and Modern – both being rolled out in the US – as well as three others Are behind them.

However, a report last week by British researchers found that “there is no evidence that this version … would make vaccines less effective.” Nevertheless, more studies are needed. The US government’s top infectious disease specialist, Dr. Anthony Fauci told ABC News on Tuesday that he would not be surprised if Britain had already spread so much concern in the US.

“When you have the amount of spread within a place like Britain … then you really need to assume that it’s already here, and certainly not the major stressor, but I wouldn’t be surprised if it was earlier Is here, ”said Fauci.

Times staff writer Melissa Healy contributed to this report.

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