The highly contagious coronavirus variant in the UK should be treated as “almost a brand new virus”, an expert said on Monday.
Dr. Peter Hotez, dean of the National School of Tropical Medicine at Baylor College of Medicine, warned against assuming that the variant acts as previously known virus strains that cause COVID-19.
“We have to think of the B.1.1.7 variant as almost a brand new virus,” he told CNN.
“It’s different from what we’ve seen before, in terms of portability, in terms of influencing young people, so we have to take this very seriously.”
The new variant is understood to be more transmissible and can be up to 70 percent more lethal than other strains, according to a study.
Its emergence has driven several countries in Europe back into lockdown and could have devastating consequences in the United States.
Hotez predicted that Americans would have to stick to public health rules for “another four to six weeks, and then we will be on the other side of it.”
“All the vaccines seem to work just as well against this UK-B.1.1.7 variant … so that’s really good news,” he told CNN.
“But if you are not vaccinated, you must behave as if you are very vulnerable to this virus. This is not a time to get sick, “he added.