LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- New strains of COVID-19 have been found in the UK, Brazil and South Africa.
The strain discovered in the UK has been detected in the U.S., including in Indiana. Minnesota announced Monday it found its first case of the strain connected to Brazil. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the other strain has not been detected in the U.S. yet.
"It's discouraging already to see significant mutations," said Dr. Paul Schulz, an infectious disease specialist at Norton Healthcare.
The CDC said it appears the variants are more contagious, but at this time, there is no evidence that they cause more severe illness or increased risk of death. However, reports are emerging that the strain first found in the U.K. could be more deadly.
"But that's not the official word from the CDC as of yet," said Dr. Mark Burns, an infectious disease specialist with the University of Louisville.
New questions are being sparked surrounding the new strains. One of those questions: Will the vaccines protect against the variants?
"According to the information we have right now, those vaccines are working against those strains," Burns said.
"We're working with the assumption the current EUA approved vaccinations will prevent infection with these variants, but it takes a little time to figure that out," Schulz said.
What about masks? Will higher grade masks, like N95s, be needed to help combat the spread of the new strains?
"With increased transmissibility, I guess that brings that question to the forefront, but I don't know that either or if the World Health Organization or CDC knows that," Schulz said. "As far as I know, they haven't published anything like that."
"We try to reserve surgical masks and N95s for hospital personnel so everyone else can pretty much wear a fabric mask, but it has to have at least two to three layers," Burns said.
Doctors said there is still much more to learn in this fight with COVID-19.
"I think the reality is that as much as we want this thing to be over, it's not," Schulz said.
Doctors add it is common for viruses to mutate, because that is how they survive.
Both doctors encourage everyone to get vaccinated. They said mass vaccination could help stop the virus from mutating further.
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