Amarillo infectious disease specialist believes COVID-19 variants could already be in Amarillo

Updated: Jan. 8, 2021 at 10:31 PM CST
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AMARILLO, Texas (KFDA) - As new strains of the COVID-19 virus continue to be discovered in the U.S, Panhandle health care experts are weighing in on what this means for Amarillo.

The two mutations of COVID-19 were first found in Britain and South Africa.

On Thursday, Texas reported its first mutation of the virus in Houston.

With these new strains being more contagious, some say there’s a good chance it’s already in west Texas.

“It’s not a surprise it’s out there, it would probably be more surprising if it weren’t there,” said Robert Gross, primary care medicine, Family Medicine Center in Canyon.

Experts say it is common for viruses to mutate much like COVID-19 is doing.

Infectious disease specialist, John Scott Milton says testing for these different variants is being done by the state.

“We’ve been in communication with the state about testing for the new variant strain and so the state is able to that. You know specific testing of the genome, of the virus, you just can’t do that commercially,” said Milton.

With the new variants reported to be more contagious, Dr. Milton believes it could already be in Amarillo.

“My feeling is that it is probably already here because it’s just so contagious,” said Milton.

Just because it is more contagious, does not mean it is necessarily able to cause a severe illness.

“There’s really no data on virulent it is, how severe the illness is. Are there more people that are going to get sicker and die from it,” said Gross.

Dr. Milton agrees with other researchers who suggest the vaccines can still protect against these new variants.

“It looks like the vaccines are still effective for all the different variants. Really what that means to me is it really becomes even more of a race to try and get people vaccinated before they get infected,” said Milton.

In the meantime, health officials suggest continuing to remain vigilant.

“Good hygiene is good hygiene. Washing your hands is good, wearing a mask is good, good nutrition is good,” said Gross.

Recent research conducted at the University of Pennsylvania suggests that Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine can protect against the two mutations found.

Research is still being conducted on the Moderna vaccine, but it is expected to have similar results.

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