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Americas dealing with multiple strains of COVID-19 in 14 countries: Pan American Health Organization

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Posted: Monday, February 1, 2021. 9:04 pm CST.

By Aaron Humes: The Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) has reported in a new epidemiological update that three new variants of the SARS-CoV-2 virus which causes COVID-19 have been detected in 14 countries across the Americas.

Explains PAHO Incident Manager Sylvain Aldighieri: “Mutations are an expected part of the spread of any virus. That’s why we’re asking national and local authorities to continue to strengthen existing disease control activities, including monitoring COVID-19 closely. We need epidemiological surveillance, including expanding regional genomics surveillance, outbreak investigation, and contact tracing. Where appropriate, we need to adjust public health and social measures to reduce transmission.”

According to the PAHO update, the VOC 202012/01 (United Kingdom) variant presents a higher risk of death for those infected with it than for those infected with other variants, while the 501Y.V2 (South Africa) variant is associated with a higher viral load, which could suggest a potential for greater transmissibility.

But according to Aldighieri, neither variant has appeared to generate community transmission in any countries in the Americas; cases appear to be limited to people traveling from the two countries or connected to people traveling from those countries.

The third variant, detected in the state of Amazonas, Brazil, is most prevalent locally and researchers have recently suggested a causal link with the increase observed during the last weeks in hospitalization in Manaus. “But it’s still early to conclude on the strength of the association between the emergence of the variant and the recent dynamics of transmission,” Aldighieri said.

As of January 26, COVID-19 in all its forms has afflicted more than 44 million and killed more than 1 million continent-wide.

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