The highly-contagious UK coronavirus variant should be treated as “almost a brand new virus,” an expert said Monday.
Dr. Peter Hotez, dean of the National School of Tropical Medicine at Baylor College of Medicine, warned against assuming that the variant acts like previously known strains of the virus that causes COVID-19.
“We have to think about the B.1.1.7 variant as almost a brand new virus,” he told CNN.
“It’s acting differently from anything we’ve seen before, in terms of transmissibility, in terms of affecting young people, so we have to take this very seriously.”
The new variant is understood to be more transmissible and may be up to 70 percent deadlier than other strains, according to one study.
Its emergence has driven several countries in Europe back into lockdown and could have devastating consequences in the US.
Hotez predicted that Americans need to stick to public health rules for “another four to six weeks, and then we’ll be on the other side of it.”
Dr. Peter Hotez urges people to be cautious even if current vaccines appear to be effective against the new COVID-19 variantAFP via Getty Images
“All the vaccines seem to work just as well against this UK-B.1.1.7 variant … so that is really good news,” he told CNN.
“But if you’re not vaccinated, you have to behave as though you’re highly vulnerable to this virus. This is not a time to get sick,” he added.