COVID variants threaten to reinfect those who’ve already had it

(CNN) – There’s a growing concern about variants of the coronavirus.

As one health expert says even if you’ve already been infected with COVID-19, you may not be fully protected from the latest mutations of the virus.

Those mutations, especially the one first identified in South Africa, are concerning.

“If it becomes dominant, the experience of our colleagues in South Africa indicate that even if you’ve been infected with the original virus that there is a very high rate of reinfection to the point where a previous infection does not seem to protect you against reinfection,” said Dr. Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.

That’s why health experts say it’s as important as ever to get as many people vaccinated for the coronavirus as quickly as possible.

“Even though there is a diminished protection against the variants, there’s enough protection to prevent you from getting serious disease, including hospitalization and death,” according to Fauci. “So, vaccination is critical. When it’s available, get vaccinated.”

But the vaccines aren’t the only keys to slowing the spread of COVID-19.

“We don’t know they protect against transmission to another person,” said Dr. Julie Morita, executive vice president of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. “So, wearing masks, keeping social distancing and washing hands are still critically important while people are getting vaccinated as well.”

So far, the South African virus variant causing the most concern has been identified in at least two states: South Carolina and Maryland.

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