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Local health experts express growing concern over UK variant of COVID-19

Published: Apr. 19, 2021 at 5:57 PM EDT
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AUGUSTA, Ga. (WRDW/WAGT) - There’s a new and growing concern about the UK variant of COVID-19. Local health leaders tell us more patients as young as 30 are hospitalized and this new variant could cause more severe cases.

Health officials say the UK variant makes up about half of the cases seen in our community. Inside AU’s COVID units are patients ages 30 to 50 years old.

“Certainly, the danger is not gone,” said Dr. Loana Chirca, an infectious disease expert at University Hospital.

The danger is not gone, at least for those who aren’t vaccinated as the UK variant is spreading.

“It (UK variant) does tend to spread a little bit faster. It is more contagious so to say,” Chirca said.

And she says that she’s been watching this trend for weeks now.

“We are seeing a little bit of a shift in the demographic to the younger set of patients,” Chirca said.

And at AU it’s the same situation. This variant is known to carry more virus particles, which has been bringing younger, unvaccinated people to the hospital quicker and forcing AU Health to change their treatments.

“You transmit more of the virus to someone when you infect them, and therefore that have this more rapid clinical course,” Chirca explained. “Some of the treatments that we used early on, for example, monoclonal antibody cocktail, that some of the patients don’t respond well to monoclonal antibody therapy.”

So they are altering antibody therapy to treat this new variant along with other inpatient treatments. The only thing that will stop this variant from continuing to spread and creating other versions of the virus is vaccination.

“This a great reminder of why those people need to get vaccinated,” Chirca said.

AU Health says its scientists are working to sequence these new variants on their own so they can learn how to take care of patients better and find new treatments.

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