Investigations have been launched in Liverpool after a cluster of COVID-19 cases supporting a new variant was traced back to Liverpool Women’s Hospital.
Is this another new strain?
Public Health England has identified that the cluster of cases shows the E484K mutation that is present in both the Brazilian and South African strains of the virus.
This mutation has been previously identified as a ‘cause for concern’ as it could trigger the immune system to have a weaker neutralisation of the virus. Experts have stated that this type of mutation shows no indication of being more transmittable or causing more severe symptoms but it ‘may need further investigation to understand more on immune response and how well vaccines work against it.’
However, despite the new clusters showing a mutation akin to other coronavirus strains, Public Health England had stressed that the Liverpool cases are not indicative of a new strainbut it instead just a mutation of a previously identified one. Dr Will Welfare, Deputy Director for Health Protection at Public Health England North West responded to the issue, urging residents to follow basic safety precautions:
We are currently investigating a cluster of cases in Liverpool of COVID-19. All cases are linked, and further genome testing and public health investigations are underway. The best way to stop the spread of the virus is to follow the basic measures – wash our hands, wear a face covering and keep our distance from others. Whilst in lockdown, it is important that we also stay at home where possible.
How did the mutation enter Liverpool?
It is understood that cases of the mutation linked to the Liverpool Women’s Hospital Foundation Trust were identified after a group of NHS workers attended a funeral in the city.
All those involved and potentially affected have been notified by contact trace and are now all self-isolating. It has been confirmed that the NHS workers will not return to work until their infectious period has expired.
The hospital has also clarified that there is no indication that any of the patients have been affected by the cluster.