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New COVID-19 variant dominant in the upper midwest

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) – A spin-off of the U.K. coronavirus variant has been circulating in the United States for months now without anyone even knowing it. This variant, scientists say, was born and bred on U.S. soil and could be responsible for nearly half of all COVID-19 deaths across the country.

News 8 spoke with Dr. Keith Gagnon, researcher at Southern Illinois University, about this discovery who says we need to monitor the mutation closely.

“We definitely need to track this variant. It’s acquiring some new mutations, especially in the spike protein. That’s what the vaccine targets and it’s also important for gaining entry in a person’s cells in their body. So we definitely want to monitor it closely.”

According to the report, it’s not yet clear how this new mutation will affect the vaccine. But Gagnon says it could be the fastest spreading mutation to date.

Gagnon also says the variant dominants certain areas of the country including the upper midwest. So, Hoosiers especially need to take extra precaution.

To watch the entire interview, click on the video above.

News 8’s medical reporter, Dr. Mary Elizabeth Gillis, D.Ed., is a classically trained medical physiologist and biobehavioral research scientist. She has been a health, medical and science reporter for over 5 years. Her work has been featured in national media outlets. You can follow her on Facebook @DrMaryGillis.