The new COVID-19 variant from the UK has made its way to Pennsylvania, but a local doctor says don't panic.

Dr. Tim Friel, an infectious disease specialist for the Lehigh Valley Health Network, said if there is going to be some good news out of this, it's that the lethality or the fatality rate associated with this virus doesn't appear to be different.

Friel said the mutated virus is more contagious, but treatments and the outcomes of them remain the same.

"The virus manifests in very similar ways. You're equally likely to become symptomatic, develop problems. Same hospitalization rate and same mortality rate," Friel said.

The state Department of Health reported on Thursday that someone in Dauphin County, near Harrisburg, had the first confirmed case. But Dr. Friel reports it's likely the virus was already here; it just hadn't been detected yet.

He said research shows the treatments developed for COVID-19 will work on this mutated virus, as will vaccines.

"We need to have a large enough representation in our community getting vaccinated. Without that, we don't provide the immunity across our communities that are going to protect us," said Dr. Friel.

Friel said data coming out of Europe is being studied so doctors can better learn how this COVID strain behaves. He said social distancing, mask wearing, and hand washing are still effective in preventing its spread.

"I know that could be scary and concerning to folks, what we do know is we have great public health interventions to help us reduce the risk of whatever form of virus is circulating in our community," Friel said.

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