New York health officials are worried that some coronavirus variants will reinfect people who have had COVID-19 before.
At a press conference on Tuesday, Dr Dave Chokshi, the city’s health commissioner, said that reinfection appears to be rare.
However, he noted that the coronavirus variants that were first identified in South Africa and Brazil have been show in lab studies to have a greater ability elude antibodies that the body generates after infection.
‘[They] do appear to be able to evade our immune response more so that some of the other variants of the virus,’ Chokshi said.
‘So that is something we are following closely and there appears to be evidence that those people who get those variants are more at risk of reinfection.’
Both he and Mayor Bill de Blasio reiterated that the best way to protect yourself from reinfection is to get vaccinated.
During a press conference on Tuesday, health officials say they are closely watching on the South African and Brazilian variants despite just two cases identified of the South African variant (left) and one case of the Brazilian variant (right)
Mayor Bill de Blasio reiterated during the press conference that the best way to protect yourself from reinfection is to get vaccinated
South Africa’s variant was first announced by the health department in the Eastern Cape province of the county on December 18.
It has 21 mutations, including one it shares with the variant first identified in the UK in a location on its genome known as N501Y.
This variant first caught international attention when four travelers arriving to Tokyo from Manaus, Brazil, tested positive on January 2.
The variant has the same spike protein mutation as the highly transmissible versions found in the UK and South Africa – named N501Y – which makes the spike better able to bind to receptors inside the body.
However, very few cases of either variant have been identified in either New York City or the state.
Just two cases of the South African variant and one of the Brazilian variant have been confirmed in the city, according to the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene (DOHMH).
In New York State, there have been five confirmed case of the South African variant and two confirmed cases of the Brazilian variant, according to The Journal News.
Currently, the variant that is the most prevalent in the Big Apple is the homegrown New York City variant, B.1.526.
The New York variant was first detected in samples collected in mid-November in Washington Heights, neighborhood in Upper Manhattan.
It is thought to have had a chance to develop in a person who had advanced AIDS.
The most prevalent variant in New York City is the homegrown variant known as B.1.526, with at least 1,800 cases identified, an increase of 18% from 1,476 the previous week
The spread of the homegrown variant may be why COVID-19 cases in the city continue to remain stubbornly with a rolling average of 3,900 for the last month
Two versions of the variant are circulating, but both are being called B.1.526 variant for now.
One carries the E484K mutation – found in the Brazilian and South African variants – and which scientists believe reduces the effectiveness of COVID-19 vaccines.
The other has the S477N mutation, which may act like a guide for the virus to infect human cells, optimizing the binding process and possibly increasing case rates.
As of March 23, 1,800 cases have been identified according to the New York City DOHMH.
That’s an increase of 18 percent from 1,476 the previous week. It may why cases in the city continue to remain stubbornly with a rolling average of 3,900 for the last month.
During the last complete week of genome sequencing, 32.5 percent of all samples sent to the state’s Pandemic Response Lab came back positive for the variant.
But Chokshi said there is no evidence that people who previously were infected with the virus can become infected with the New York variant.
‘Based on our own observation here in New York City, including the variant that was first identified here in the city, we’re not seeing likelihood of reinfection from that particular variant or the likelihood of reinfection growing over time,’ he said.