How concerned should Albertans be over the new COVID-19 variants?

No new cases of the South African or United Kingdom (UK) COVID-19 variants have been reported in Alberta, according to officials with Alberta Health Saturday.

The first case of the South African variant in Canada was detected in Alberta on Friday.

Dr. Deena Hinshaw announced the news on social media.

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Alberta’s chief medical officer of health says the person was a recent traveller and is in quarantine.

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At this point Dr. Hinshaw says there’s no evidence of community spread.

Read more: Officials confirm Canada’s 1st case of South African variant of COVID-19 detected in Alberta

UK COVID-19 strain

Four cases of the UK strain of COVID-19 have been reported in Alberta as of January 9. All are travel related.

Across Canada, 14 cases have been detected: three in British Columbia, six in Ontario, and one in Quebec.

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How bad are the new variants? 

“This new variant in South Africa and the one in the United Kingdom does not appear to make people any more sick,” Dr. Craig Jenne said.

“No one has to panic.”

Jenne is a microbiology, immunology and infectious diseases associate professor at the University of Calgary.

“The unfortunate side though, it does look like it spreads a little easier. So this might mean the virus could spread faster and spread to more people,” Dr. Jenne added.

Read more: Alberta records 989 new cases of COVID-19 Saturday, 31 additional deaths

Are mutations normal? 

Mutations of viruses are normal. It’s what viruses do, according to infectious disease physician and epidemiologist Dr. John Conly.

“About one to two mutations occur a month with the RNA virus such as the SARS-CoV-2,” Dr. Conly said.

SARS-CoV-2 is the virus that causes COVID-19.

“Influenza is higher and so is the AIDS virus in it terms of its ability to mutate.”

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Will the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines work? 

The good news is both doctors agree that the two vaccines in Alberta will work against the variants.

“Early results suggest that the two vaccines we have in Canada are protective against both of these variants. Both the South African variant and the UK variant,” Dr. Jenne said.

“It is likely not going to have a big impact on the immunization … because there’s a broad sweep of anti-bodies that are being produced,” Dr. Conly said.

On Saturday, Alberta recorded an additional 989 new cases of COVID-19, plus 31 additional fatalities related to the disease.

© 2021 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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