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Experts: COVID-19 has mutated and is still changing

Every day doctors learn more about novel coronavirus

Experts believe COVID-19 has been circulating in the United States for a few weeks now, and every day doctors learn more about the new virus.

Dr. Frank Esper, an infectious disease specialist at Cleveland Clinic Children’s, said we’re starting to notice differences from cases reported overseas.

“We’re seeing how infectious this virus can be; how this virus really affects older people,” he said. “The difference is that we’re seeing a lot more younger people also with this infection.”

According to a recent analysis from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), everyone is at risk for COVID-19.

Esper said younger adults can get severe infection too, but not nearly as often as older people.

We’re also learning more about how the virus is transmitted through respiratory droplets that hang in the air after coughing and sneezing.

“Anybody within that 3-6 foot radius can then get it on them, and they can become infected,” said Esper. “We believe that is the primary way that this virus is transmitting from person-to-person. We’re still figuring out whether tabletops, doorknobs, and things like that can transmit.”

Scientists also believe COVID-19 has mutated, but the strains they’ve discovered are all about the same, according to Esper. He said virus mutation is common.

“The virus itself is still mutating; it’s still changing a little bit and strains, as you go from place to place, from China, to Italy, to the United States, may change to the point where you see a more predominant strain in one country than another,” said Esper. “However, we haven’t seen a substantial divergence of this virus into two separate entities where one strain is clinically different than another.”

Esper said, on average, every COVID-19 infection transmits the virus to two or three other people, causing cases to double very quickly.

Therefore, separating ourselves from others is effective, and important, to stop the spread of the virus.