CO health officials react to new, fast-spreading COVID-19 strains arrival in Oregon – KTVZ

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‘It’s not surprising this coronavirus has mutated. This is what viruses do.’

BEND, Ore. (KTVZ) — About a month ago, a fast-spreading variant of the COVID-19 virus was found in the United Kingdom. It didn’t take long for the new mutation to make its way to the U.S. — and now, to Oregon.

This past weekend, an on-campus staff member at the University of Portland tested positive for the new strain of COVID-19, called B 117. The employee had no travel history.

Dr. Jeff Absalon, chief physician executive for the St. Charles Health System, said it’s not surprising, when virus mutate.

“It’s not surprising that this coronavirus has mutated,” Absalon said. “This is what viruses do, they change over time.” 

While the new virus apparently does spread more rapidly than the original strain, it is not more deadly, nor is it immune to the current COVID-19 vaccine. Absalon told NewsChannel 21 on Monday, people in Central Oregon should continue to be vigilant and do what they can to stop the spread.

“The public should be just as worried now as it is any time during the pandemic,” Absalon said. “I think this is a very serious pandemic, and we just urge everybody to play their part to prevent the spread of this virus.”  

The Oregon Health Authority said the one other big difference, besides how quickly the new variant spreads, is that it seems to bind tighter to respiratory cells.

Morgan Emerson, health information officer with Deschutes County Health Services, said it’s too early to tell if the new strain could make its way into Deschutes County, but there is still cause for concern.

“It’s too soon to know exactly, but it is concerning to know that it’s in Oregon, and we know it spreads more rapidly.,” Emerson said.

Absalon added that while St. Charles has changed its treatment regimen a number of times throughout the pandemic, as of now, there is no plan to change how they are handling COVID-19 cases with the news of a new strain.

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