Officials: Oklahomans should take precautions against new COVID-19 variants

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OKLAHOMA CITY (KFOR) – Nearly one year into this pandemic, we are now facing new battles with new variations of COVID-19.

So, what’s the state of these variants in Oklahoma and what can we do to protect ourselves?

“Only when a mutation impacts the behavior of a virus do we really start to get concerned about it so that’s why we’re labeling these ‘variants of concern,'” said Dr. George Monks, President of the Oklahoma State Medical Association.

Monks says there are three variants of concern he and other medical experts are following right now.

“There’s the British, the B.1.1.7, the South African, which is the B.1.351 and the Brazilian variant, which is the P.1 variant,” he said. 

Monks says they are all more infectious and the B.1.1.7 may be more deadly. It hasn’t been identified in Oklahoma – yet.

“But it has been identified in 34 states, including three border states of Oklahoma so it’s very likely here especially because we just don’t do very many genetic, genomic samplings of these viruses,” said Monks.

However, the P.1, Brazilian, variant has been identified in Oklahoma.

“We’re one of two states, along with Minnesota, that has identified that variant,” Monks said. 

Monks says all of the variants are more transmissible than the original form of the disease. Because of this, he urges Oklahomans to double down on the three W’s – wear your mask, wash your hands and watch your distance.

“I think by the springtime, the CDC predicts these new variants of concern may be the predominant strains in our country, but again, I want to reassure people that the vaccines still seem effective against these new strains and our tests are still working to detect them,” Monks said.

Monks says you may need a booster dose for the South African variant and there are concerns of re-infection with the Brazilian variant.

As for if these strains are more lethal for younger people, Monks says it’s too soon to tell.

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