July 07, 2020 11:00
A highly infectious strain of coronavirus is spreading in Korea.
The Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Monday that analysis of 313 genetic sequences of 2,362 new COVID-19 cases detected here since May showed that 98.4 percent were the "GH" strain that may be up to six times more infectious than the first.
"Most of the infections reported since May, including ones traced to Itaewon clubs... were the GH strain of the virus," KCDC chief Jeong Eun-kyeong said. "Many people came to Korea from Europe and the U.S. in March and April and we believe the GH strain was introduced at that time."
The World Health Organization classifies COVID-19 into seven strains such as S, V, L, G, GH and GR.
According to the KCDC, the S strain comes from Wuhan, China, while the V strain spread in Daegu and surrounding North Gyeongsang Province primarily among the Shincheonji sect. The GR strain was discovered among Russian sailors who arrived recently in Busan.
Most of the initial cases in Korea were the S strain. Now, the GH strain is the dominant one, which is also the case in Europe, North America and South America.
Researchers at Duke University, Los Alamos National Laboratory and the University of Sheffield announced recently that the GH strain is three to six times more contagious than the original strain.
"The GH strain is believed to proliferate much faster and combines more easily with human cells, making it highly contagious," Jeong said.
When asked to comment on the possibility of airborne infection of the virus, she said, "More research is needed," but added, "Existing quarantine and prevention measures are still valid, since the main routes of infection continue to be indirect contact."
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