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As 2020 comes to an end, the ardent hope of everyone was that with it the pandemic will come to an end too. Except, what we are facing today is not the demise of covid-19—rather, a mutation. One that started in the United Kingdom and is now spreading across the world.
Everything we have heard about this new strain of covid-19 is panic-inducing—then be it the fact that it spreads more easily in children, who till now were not as affected by covid-19 as adults; or that this mutant strain is more deadly.
However, according to a study by Public Health England, this new variant may not cause more severe illness or complications after all.
Scientists say the new variant can spread more rapidly. It was found in England in mid December and led to other countries imposing travel restrictions to the United Kingdom. By now, several other countries have reported variants.
Under the study, researchers compared 1,769 people infected with the new variant with 1,769 who had what they described as “wild-type” virus. The two groups were matched 1:1 on the basis of age, sex, area of residence and time of testing.
Of the 42 people who were admitted to hospital, 16 were infected with the new variant while 26 cases had wild type infection, according to the study. In terms of fatality, there were 12 deaths in variant cases compared to 10 deaths in wild-type cases.
“Preliminary results from the cohort study found no statistically significant difference in hospitalisation and 28-day case fatality between cases with the variant and wild-type comparator cases,” the study said.
There was no significant difference in the likelihood of reinfection with the new variant as compared with the other variants, it said.
The study, however, added that the “secondary attack rate”, or the proportion of contacts of confirmed cases that develop disease themselves, was higher in people infected with the new variant.