The WHO mission had found several signs of the more wide-ranging 2019 spread, including establishing for the first time there were more than a dozen strains of the virus in Wuhan already in December, its lead investigator, Peter Ben Embarek, told CNN. The team also had a chance to speak to the first patient Chinese officials said had been infected, an office worker in his 40s, with no travel history of note, reported infected on December 8.
The slow emergence of more detailed data gathered on the WHO’s long-awaited trip into China may add to concerns voiced by other scientists studying the origins of the disease that it may have been spreading in China long before its first official emergence in mid-December.
The mission also gathered 13 different sequences of the virus, and if examined with wider patient data in China across 2019, could provide valuable clues about the geography and timing of the outbreak before December. Ben Embarek said: “Some of them are from the markets… Some of them are not linked to the markets,” which includes the Huanan seafood market in Wuhan, thought to have played a role in the virus’ first spread.
Changes in a virus’s genetic makeup are common and normally harmless, occurring over time as the disease moves between and reproduces among people or animals. Ben Embarek declined to draw conclusions about what the 13 strains could have meant for the disease’s history before December.
But the discovery of so many different possible variants of the virus could suggest it had been circulating for longer than just that month, as some virologists have previously suggested. This genetic material is likely the first physical evidence to emerge internationally to bolster such a theory.
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Q: I recovered from a Covid-19 infection, does this mean I do not need to be vaccinated?
But while people have been reinfected with the South African variant, it appears as though the vaccine is better at preventing reinfection than a previous natural infection, he added.
The South African variant is more problematic than the variant first identified in the UK, Fauci said, “in the sense that we know less about it vis a vis whether it transmits more readily or not.” However, it is known that it evades the protection from some monoclonal antibodies, and it somewhat diminishes the effectiveness of the vaccine, Fauci said, but there is “still some cushion left so that the vaccine does provide some protection against it.”
WHAT’S IMPORTANT TODAY
The US has its own batch of troubling homegrown variants
Vaccine rollout is a much-needed win for UK after bungling its pandemic response
Auckland goes into lockdown as New Zealand and Australia get first batches of Pfizer vaccine
ON OUR RADAR
- Bill Gates’ daughter Jennifer, a medical student, got her first dose of a Covid-19 vaccine and offered up a lighthearted debunking of a conspiracy theory involving her dad.
- Pfizer/BioNTech’s vaccine appears to reduce symptomatic Covid-19 infections by more than 90% in the real world, says Israeli researchers. The findings suggest that the vaccine remains remarkably effective in mass vaccination campaigns
- President Joe Biden will participate in a virtual G7 event on Friday where he plans to discuss efforts to combat the Covid-19 pandemic and rebuild the world economy
- Brazil gambled on unproven drugs to fight Covid-19 while rejecting at least one offer to purchase a vaccine already in the final stage of trials because the terms were “abusive.
- Coronavirus travel bans left numerous unmarried partners and their families in limbo on Valentine’s Day.
No tests before domestic flights
The CDC does not recommend that people travel at this time, however, and recommends travelers get tested one to three days before the trip. “After travel, getting tested with a viral test 3-5 days post-travel and staying home and self-quarantining for 7 days, even if test results are negative, is a recommended public health measure to reduce risk,” it added.
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