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How do viruses mutate?

But what causes viruses such as covid-19 to mutate and are Acadiana residents concerned?

Posted: Jul 21, 2021 9:28 PM
Updated: Jul 21, 2021 9:28 PM

Lafayette - U.S. Cases of covid-19 have doubled over the last two weeks with the delta variant accounting for more than half of all new infections.

But what causes viruses such as covid-19 to mutate and are Acadiana residents concerned?

News 15 spoke to folks in town and got mixed responses; some people saying they aren’t concerned while others say they are.

"I feel like a lot of people like me believed that covid was kind of like a phase that would eventually die off and there wouldn’t be other variants," said Lafayette resident Tyler Keeler.

But now there are several variants of the covid-19 virus, four of them to be exact with delta being the dominant strain across the country. But what exactly causes a virus to mutate over time?

"They have to copy RNA back into RNA and this copying mechanism is not very good," said Ruth Ruprecht a virologist at the New Iberia research center.

RNA or ribonucleic acid is a single-strain molecule similar to DNA. Ruprecht says the more a virus spreads, the more chances for these errors to occur and new variants to form.

"When a thousand people are infected, the chances of bad mutations happening go up a thousand-fold," she said.

The Louisiana Department of Health reported 1,546 new covid-19 cases Tuesday and hospitals have seen the highest number of patients since mid-February with more than 700. With delta being more contagious than the previous variants, some Lafayette residents like Kathryn LeBlanc say its cause for concern.

"I mean it’s a little concerning because we don’t know what to expect and stuff," LeBlanc said.

That uncertainty has people like keeler reconsidering his choice to get vaccinated.

"The covid variants do scare me because it’s just rehashing what we just went through," said keeler.

While there is no stopping a virus from mutating, Ruprecht says one major key to fighting the spread may be booster shots. Pfizer did recently ask the government to authorize third doses of its two-dose vaccine.

While delta remains the dominant variant, health experts are now monitoring a fourth variant, Lamba, as the first case was reported in Texas this week.

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