UGA virus expert says 2nd strain of COVID-19 spreads more easily but less deadly

ATLANTA — So is there a reason the death rate in Georgia is dropping? We wanted to know what's going with a possible second strain of coronavirus.

Channel 2′s Jorge Estevez spoke to Dr. Ted Ross, who is the Director of the Center for Vaccines and Immunology at University of Georgia. Here is their exchange:

Jorge Estevez: Dr. Ross, let’s get right to it. This new strain less deadly, more deadly?

Dr. Ted Ross: It seems to be about the same as the other strain, it might be a little less deadly than the other strain.

Jorge Estevez: How is this going to affect our body’s response, our immune system, is it going to attack it more, are we going to be able to fight it off better? Because it seems like it’s spreading more, but less people may be hospitalized because of it.

Dr. Ted Ross: It definitely is able to transmit more efficiently between people. But our immune system sees both the old version and the new version the same. So that bodes well for being able to fight off this fire as it spreads between person to person.

Jorge Estevez: And I want to talk about that vaccine question -- let me ask you this. First, we’re talking about the body’s response. Viruses almost don’t want to kill their host, explain that.

Dr. Ted Ross: Well, a virus that kills its host quickly doesn’t have the chance to spread to another person. So eventually a virus evolves to its host to come up with an equilibrium of the ability to cause some infection, and some sneezing and coughing so it can spread to the next host.

Jorge Estevez: So it’s almost like they have a mind of their own. Let’s talk about vaccine development. How will this new strain affect the development of a vaccine? You’re saying It’s not?

Dr. Ted Ross: Yeah, right. Now, these two strains seem to be seen by our body the same. So, the vaccines that are under trials currently should be effective against both strains of this virus.

Jorge Estevez: Both strains, let’s talk about a third strain or a fourth strain or a fifth strain, is that common? It’s quite likely that we’ll have additional mutations and strains emerge over the next year or so and are begun to get weaker too.

Dr. Ted Ross: They could get weaker, as long as they don’t evolve away from our immune response or the vaccines we’re making, we should be in good shape.