The Covid-19 virus continues to mutate during the pandemic, and experts believe it is likely to become more contagious as coronavirus cases in the United States begin to rise again, according to a new study.
The new US study analyzes 5,000 genetic sequences of the virus, which continues to mutate as it spreads among the population. The study did not find that mutations in the virus made it more deadly or altered its effects, although it may become easier to catch, a Washington Post report said, noting that public health experts acknowledge that all viruses are mutations that are mostly minor.
David Morens, a virologist at the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said the new study should not be over-interpreted, but added that the virus could respond to public health interventions, such as social distancing.
“All of these things are barriers to transmission or infection, but as the virus becomes more contagious, it̵
Morens noted that this could mean that the virus could continue to mutate even after the vaccine, which means that the vaccine will have to be handled – just as the flu vaccine changes every year.
Twenty countries have experienced a more than 5% increase in their Covid-19 cases in the past two weeks, according to data from Johns Hopkins University.
On Wednesday, the United States saw 38,204 new cases, resulting in a total of 6.9 million cases in the country. The country surpassed 200,000 coronavirus deaths on Tuesday, with between 300 and 1,000 deaths a day.
The United States continues to be the country with the highest number of coronavirus cases and deaths.
The latest increase in cases is concentrated mostly in the west and midwest, where countries such as Colorado, Wyoming, Wisconsin and Montana have seen a wave. The last few days in Texas, where there has been a big jump in cases, have seen a noticeable increase in cases, with more than 11,000 new cases reported on Monday.
Public health experts say it is too early to say whether the increase in cases is a short jump following holiday gatherings on Labor Day in early September or whether this is the beginning of an upward trend as the weather begins to cool in many regions and people head indoors. Experts have warned that both events, in addition to K-12 schools and college campuses, could lead to an increase in cases.
During a hearing before Congress on Wednesday, Dr. Robert Redfield, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), highlighted data showing that young Americans are on the rise. According to Redfield, people aged 18 to 25 accounted for 26% of new cases of coronavirus – the largest of all age groups.
Redfield also said that more than 90% of the American population remains susceptible to Covid-19, crushing any belief in the development of widespread immunity.