SCHWAZ, Austria — Austrian health officials said a vaccinated pensioner was tested positive for Covid-19 after her reports confirmed she was infected with both the British and the South Africa variant.
However, officials now believe that the woman is actually infected with a mutated version of the British variant, which has somehow adopted the South African variant’s mutations to spread more efficiently.
“No such case was described,” said a spokesperson from the Austrian Agency for Health and Food Safety (AGES), initially denying the two-fold Covid-19 infection.
But the agency later sent a follow-up statement confirming part of the report.
“It is not a question of an infection with two variants, but the British one with an additional mutation,” the agency said.
The claim was made because she reportedly tested positive for the British variant (B.1.1.7) and a mutation named ‘E484K’, which was first discovered in the South African variant (B.1.351). This meant she was infected with a version of the virus that combines elements of both, rather than both the British and South African variants.
AGES warned they believe the virus could potentially be more infectious than it is already known to be as a result of the additional mutation.
“During the analyses in the past few days, around 20 cases of the British virus mutation B.1.1.7 have occurred in the Schwaz district, which could show further mutation characteristics,” a state official said.
The patient, who had the first of two vaccines, is reported to be in a stable condition without severe symptoms; however, the bizarre incident has raised many questions.
The woman had only had the first dose, which may have helped reduce the symptoms.
Still, it is unclear which vaccine the woman had received before testing positive for the virus.
As per the official reports from AGES, there are indications that this new mutation allows the virus to transmit more easily among cells and makes reinfections more likely.
“These questions are also within the focus of the MedUni Innsbruck vaccination study in Schwaz,” the AGES spokesperson said.
As of March 11, all persons residing in the district of Schwaz must show proof of testing negative for Covid-19 if they want to leave the neighborhood.
As of March 22, over 142,000 cases of the B.1.1.7 Covid-19 variant had been reported in the United Kingdom. That variant, also known as the UK variant or the Kent variant, came to prominence in late 2020 and appeared to be transmitted between people easily than the variant that started the pandemic.
Even though viruses mutating is not unexpected, the worry for scientists and the global population is how effective the vaccines currently in use are against those new variants.
(Edited by Vaibhav Vishwanath Pawar and Gaurab Dasgupta.)
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