Former FDA chief thinks new mutation of COVID-19 found in the U.K. is 'already in the U.S.'

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Former Food and Drug Administration head Dr. Scott Gottlieb believes the new variant of the coronavirus found in the United Kingdom is "already in the U.S." and a travel ban won't do anything to keep it from spreading in the country.

The mutation is thought to be up to 70 percent more transmissible, and because of it, more than 40 countries have banned travel to and from the U.K. for at least 48 hours. Gottlieb told CNBC's Shepard Smith on Monday that at this point, he does not believe a travel ban "is going to prevent this mutated strain from coming into the United States. We're going to have an epidemic that continues to build over the course of the next three or four weeks, we'll reach a peak, and then we'll start to see infection rates decline as we see vaccinations get rolled out."

So far, there is no sign this is a deadlier strain, and Gottlieb told Smith "the question is, is this virus going to change the surface proteins in a way that can obviate either the vaccines or prior immunity, and there's no indication that it's doing that right now." However, Gottlieb cautioned that "over time, it will evolve in ways where it can probably obviate prior infection or vaccines to some degree, so we'll probably need to adapt our vaccines over time."

As the virus continues to make its way around the world, Gottlieb said "we're going to start to see more of these variants, and that's why it's important to get the population vaccinated and snuff out these infections. The more infections you have, the more chances that these variants start to propagate."

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