NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) -- The United Kingdom found itself increasingly isolated Monday as a number of countries in Europe and around the world closed their borders to the U.K. as a result of a new coronavirus strain spreading rapidly there.
The new strain has experts concerned. CBS2's Dr. Max Gomez has more on what is known so far.
Virus experts say this was not unexpected. Viruses often mutate, and not always becoming nastier. Several coronavirus strains have emerged around the world this year, and this particular variant was first detected in Britain in September. But by mid-December, it accounted for nearly two-thirds of cases in London and southeast England.
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British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has said that the new strain is 70% more transmissible than the previous coronavirus, but some virus experts question that number.
NYU Langone Vaccine Center Director Dr. Mark Mulligan, who headed the clinical trial for the Pfizer vaccine at NYU, said its not clear why there has been such an outbreak in England.
"I think that the increased numbers of cases could be due simply to the change in weather and people moving indoors and maybe less ability to do social distancing. That remains to be seen, and it's possible that the changes in the genetics of this virus that has become widespread in certain areas in U.K. contribute to that spread," Mulligan said.
The epicenter of the new outbreak is in London, which until very recently had only Tier 2 restrictions. It has since enacted Tier 4 restrictions.
While the mutation affects the spike protein on the virus, it appears that the two vaccines authorized so far in the U.S. are effective against this new variant, and there's no evidence that it causes more serious illness.
Mulligan pointed out that even if this virus variant can escape the present vaccines, the mRNA vaccine technology can be readily adapted to protect against the new strain.
Other experts Gomez has spoken to say it's too soon to tell how worrisome the new virus variant is: Is it really more infectious and moving to escape the vaccines? That's concerning enough to search for much more information.
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