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Public health officials monitoring the spread of COVID variants

Mutant virus strains are adding to the concerns for health officials as they contend with the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. One strain that started in the United Kingdom is making its way across the globe. "That's now found in the U.S. in over half our states," said Dr. Nancy Nielsen during her weekly conversation with WBFO. "Now there's some evidence that it seems to be more lethal."

While the variants aren't unexpected, they are cause for concern.

"There's one in South Africa and one in Brazil and the very first case of the Brazil variant was discovered in Minneapolis,' Nielsen said.

"So, that's why it's so important that as soon as vaccine is made available people take it. Because if the virus has  nowhere to go, it doesn't keep spreading and it doesn't mutate."

Nielsen acknowledges that scientists aren't completely certain that the current vaccines will be able to overcome all variant strains. In the laboratory the vaccines "seem" to be effective. But that's not the end of the discussion.

"Press releases from a company that makes a product shouldn't be regarded the same as a peer-reviewed paper and scientific evidence."

Senior Associate Dean for Health Policy at UB's Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences, Dr. Nielsen remains hopeful the scientific community will be able to overcome the variants.

Two vaccines are currently in use across the United States. Both utilize "very nimble" platforms, according to Nielsen. One of the companies producing a COVID vaccine "is already preparing to ramp up on a second-generation vaccine based on these worrisome mutants."

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Jay joined Buffalo Toronto Public Media in 2008 and has been local host for NPR's "Morning Edition" ever since. In June, 2022, he was named one of the co-hosts of WBFO's "Buffalo, What's Next."

A graduate of St. Mary's of the Lake School, St. Francis High School and Buffalo State College, Jay has worked most of his professional career in Buffalo. Outside of public media, he continues in longstanding roles as the public address announcer for the Buffalo Sabres of the National Hockey League and as play-by-play voice of Canisius College basketball.