Virologist: New virus strain may already have arrived in Estonia

Irja Lutsar
Irja Lutsar Source: ERR / Siim Lõvi

With the first case of the new strain of SARS-Cov-2 having recently been discovered in Finland in a passenger arriving from the United Kingdom, Irja Lutsar, virology professor and head of the anti-COVID-19 research council advising the Estonian government, said that nothing new has been learned about the new strain, including whether or not the course of illness caused by it is any more severe, Postimees reports.

"The new strain has 17 mutations, many of them in the spike protein area," Lutsar told Postimees. The new allegedly faster spreading variant of SARS-Cov-2 was initially found in the United Kingdom.

"This strain reached Europe even before air traffic was halted," Lutsar said. "Other states that have begun looking for it have found cases of the strain, too."

When asked if the new strain can quickly spread to Estonia now that it has also been found in Finland, Lutsar noted that it may already have arrived.

"We don't know that it's not here yet; we simply haven't found it here," she said, adding that over 300 strains have been studied to date. 

Eike Kingsepp, media adviser of the Health Board, told Postimees that the search of the new strain is already underway in Estonia and, fortunately, it has yet to be found. 

"We're looking for the new strain in everyone arriving from the United Kingdom as well as their next of kin," she said.

Lutsar noted that RNA viruses are mutating constantly and the strain that is currently deemed ordinary is not the same one found in Wuhan last year.

"Such mutations have also been found in Spain," she added.

The virologist said that there is not proof yet of the new strain causing more severe illness or higher mortality.

"It has been assumed that this strain is more easily contracted by children, but these are just speculations," she said.


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Editor: Helen Wright

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