Best way to avoid new U.K. COVID-19 variant is to avoid others, says B.C.'s top doctor | iNFOnews | Thompson-Okanagan's News Source

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Best way to avoid new U.K. COVID-19 variant is to avoid others, says B.C.'s top doctor

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry provides an update on COVID-19 from Victoria on Dec. 3, 2020.
Image Credit: SUBMITTED / Province of B.C.
December 29, 2020 - 4:44 PM

While the new UK variant of COVID-19 hasn’t yet spread to the community in B.C., it may just be a matter of time as it’s appearing in more and more countries around the world.

So far, only one person, who recently returned to B.C. from the UK, has tested positive for the variant and they are in quarantine.

The one thing that seems to contribute most to it spreading more easily than the normal COVID-19 is a protein that has mutated, provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry said during a news briefing today, Dec. 29.

“There’s one particular mutation, a protein, that may make the virus, unfortunately, bind to the receptors at the back of our throats and noses and thus makes it easier for someone to be infected with a smaller dose of the virus,” Dr. Henry explained.

That’s why she said it’s very important to only interact with people within your own household and keep your distance from others when doing things like shopping, even if you’re wearing a mask.

The variant is not detected in a standard COVID-19 test and can only be picked up by examining the entire gnome sequence. That takes time and there is limited laboratory space so that test is only being conducted on those samples taken from people who have returned recently from the U.K., which is only several dozen people, she said.

READ MORE: First COVID-19 U.K. variant case found in B.C., say health officials

As the variant is being detected in other countries, that testing may have to expand.

Because of the variant, it’s particularly important that all returning travellers quarantine for a full 14 days to try to prevent it spreading into the community.

The variant doesn’t seem to make any difference in the severity of the illness nor does it seem to be resistant to vaccines, she said.

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