Guam Public Health closely monitoring new COVID-19 strains

Dr. Felix Cabrera (PNC file photo)

New COVID-19 strains have emerged all over the world and Guam’s Department of Public Health and Social Services is closely monitoring these new variants.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control has a list of multiple COVID-19 variants, including one detected in the UK which has a large number of mutations and spreads more easily and quickly than the others. The strain has been detected in the U.S. and Canada.

In South Africa, there’s another variant originally detected in early October, which CDC says shares some mutations with the variant detected in the UK.

In Brazil, a variant was identified in four travelers from Brazil, who were tested during routine screening at Tokyo’s Haneda airport.

Dr. Felix Cabrera, Public Health’s Medical Director, told Pauly Suba on NewsTalk k57’s The Bright Side that while these variants have not yet been detected in the community, the department is taking proactive steps by sending samples to CDC.

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“Are we testing for it? Yes, we are sending samples from both quarantine positives and community positives to the CDC. They will be sequencing them and then they’ll let us know if they match any of the strains that are out there,” the doctor said.

Cabrera says that currently, there is still an understanding in studies that the vaccines still work against these strains.

“We are worried of course about the UK strain. We are very worried about the South African strain, and then the Brazilian strain. Right now, there is an understanding in the studies that the vaccines still work against them. But there is still concern about the South African one. Moderna is not taking any chances and they are already trying to tweak the vaccine to see if they can actually fully cover the South African strain,” Cabrera said.

CDC says these variants seem to spread more easily and quickly than other variants, which may lead to more cases of COVID-19. But currently, there is no evidence that these variants cause more severe illness or increased risk of death. However, an increase in the number of cases will put more strain on health care resources.