Nevada health officials monitoring new COVID-19 strain, likely to arrive in Las Vegas

 Hearing that an already dangerously contagious virus—has mutated into an even more contagious version is sending shockwaves across the world.

“Anytime you see a mutation that can affect the way a virus spreads it’s going to be concerning.” Said Professor Brian Labus, with the UNLV School of Public Health.

He says the newly discovered strain of COVID-19 discovered in the United Kingdom has mutations that make it easier to spread from person to person.

Labus also notes the new strain will produce the same symptoms we’ve seen with the virus so far in order to tell if someone’s contracted it; health departments have to submit specimens to the Centers for Disease Control.“It does not, at this point, seem to be any more toxic or lethal," said Joseph Labus, Laboratory Director for the Southern Nevada Health District.

He says health officials here in Nevada are keeping an eye out for any mutations to the virus.

“We are doing gene sequencing both here in Southern Nevada as well as up in Reno,” Labus explained.

Officials believe it could only be a matter of time before the new strain makes its way to the valley.

The health district says people need to continue wearing masks, social distancing and practicing proper handwashing.

At a time when pandemic fatigue is impacting so many, they say this is a reminder to remain vigilant.

“It’s been ten months or so that’s longer than having a baby but unfortunately we don’t have anything to show for it right now and we could have another ten months to go,” Labus said.

Unlike the flu shot that changes year to year depending on what strain we’re seeing Labus says the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines were created to cover all the bases.

“We expect the vaccine will work on this strain just like it would on the strains it was designed for, it was basically designed on the grounds that this virus is mutating and it does change all the time,” Labus explained.

People living and working in nursing homes and assisted living facilities here in Nevada have already started to receive the vaccine.

They're part of the first tier along with front line health care workers, the general public is expected to have access by spring or summer of 2021.

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