A White House Coronavirus Task Force report said the explosive surge of coronavirus cases in the U.S. in recent months might be caused by a more contagious U.S. variant of the virus. But a separate statement from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says variants are evolving across the world, but they have not seen evidence of a U.S. variant yet.
A local doctor told NBC 7 it is very concerning but not surprising to hear.
“The possibility of other strains should continue and that's why we have what we call epidemiological surveillance," said Dr. Paul Schalch-Lepe an Otolaryngologist.
Schalch-Lepe said a virus survives on its ability to change and mutate. Two COVID-19 variants, one in South Africa the other in the U.K., show it evolves as a faster spreading infection.
So far the CDC research indicates there is no U.S. variant but it is highly likely though there are many variants evolving simultaneously across the globe.
"The effect of a virus spreading more easily has a much deadlier effect on the population level," he said.
Schalch-Lepe says there are no new protocols to protect yourself from a variant of the disease that you haven't heard.
"The same precautions continue to apply in terms of mask-wearing, social distancing, hygiene, and avoiding enclosed spaces. So we almost have to triple our efforts," he said.
Schalch-Lepe says time is not on our side, especially with the lackluster rollout of vaccines.
"As long as the virus is running rampant and continues to spread the virus will still continue to mutate. The vaccine will slow down the spread," he said.
A new study from Pfizer found that its vaccine appears to be effective against a key mutation in the U.K. strain, as well as the South Africa strain.
Moderna and AstraZeneca vaccines are undergoing similar testing.
If coronavirus proves to be a type of virus that just continues to mutate, Schalch-Lepe says it is likely we will have annual vaccination campaigns as we do for the flu.