Coronavirus

Case from Canada shows: Mutation is contagious after just a second

The entrance to the Roberta Place Nursing Home in Barrie, Canada.

The entrance to the Roberta Place Nursing Home in Barrie, Canada.

Zou Zheng / Xinhua via picture alliance

Until now, scientists had assumed that you would be infected with the coronavirus from another person if you had direct contact with the infected person for at least 15 minutes. However, cases from Canada show that the so-called exposure time – i.e. the time in which you are exposed to the virus – can also be much shorter: As a result, one second of contact can be enough to become infected.

In the Canadian city of Barrie, north of Toronto, several people were infected with the corona mutation B.1.1.7 – there was also a major outbreak in a nursing home called “Roberta Place”. The Canadian medium “The Globe and Mail” reports on it. Within three weeks, 128 of the 129 home residents tested positive for the virus variant, which was first discovered in the UK. It is believed to be up to 70 percent more contagious than the original virus.

It was precisely this mutation that infected the residents of “Roberta Place” – and soon other residents of the city as well. But B.1.1.7 is not only spreading in Barrie. Other cities in the Canadian province of Ontario are also affected, for example Kingston, 300 kilometers away, or the York region. The local medical officer in York, Karim Kurji, has therefore set up a unit that only focuses on cases of the British mutation. This is to prevent further large outbreaks from occurring.

People got infected in a store in just a few minutes

The doctor told Globe and Mail that his unit had already been able to identify several people who had only been in a shop for a few minutes and who had apparently been infected. Kurji is therefore in talks with the health authorities of Ontario: He is campaigning for the official limit, which says when it is a “high-risk contact”, to be lowered. So far, every “face-to-face” contact there from a distance of up to two meters has been rated as high-risk and lasts longer than 15 minutes.

And the health department of the Canadian district of Simcoe Muskoka has already confirmed that an exposure time of just a single second is enough to get infected – if you don’t wear a mask. The district is already revising its contact tracing systems instead of relying on infected people to record their contacts themselves, writes The Globe and Mail.

Even if the government and health departments from other provinces help track contacts, that may not be enough to stop the spread of the UK variant of the virus. That said Colin Lee, assistant medical director of Simcoe Muskoka. “At the moment we are struggling to reach every person within 24 hours,” Lee said in an interview with Canadian journalists. “I honestly believe that we will continue to be overwhelmed with more and more cases.”

The new virus mutation is also spreading in Europe

In the Netherlands, too, quite a few people are infected with the B.1.1.7 mutation. There it is already responsible for half of the new infections. The mutation has also already been found in Germany.

Yesterday the “Süddeutsche Zeitung” reported that the “British” mutation had already been detected 88 times in Cologne alone. The Robert Koch Institute therefore emphasizes that it is all the more important to consistently adhere to the known rules – that is, to keep a distance of at least 1.5 meters, regularly wash your hands thoroughly, wear a mask and often ventilate inside.

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