The Coronavirus is Mutating: Here’s what you need to know about the new variants
New virus variants are expected to occur over time since viruses constantly change through mutation; these variants either emerge and disappear or emerge and persist. Variants of the SARS-CoV-2, the causative agent of COVID-19, have appeared globally during this pandemic.
A variant (known as 20B/501Y.V1, Variant of Concern [VOC] 202012/01, or B.1.1.7 lineage) was detected with an uncommonly large number of mutations in the United Kingdom, while another (known as 20C/501Y.V2 or B1.351 lineage) was identified in South Africa. Both variants are associated with an increase in the number of cases in the aforementioned countries. Scientists have deduced that these variants are more infectious. However, despite the increase in transmissibility, these variants neither increase severity of illness nor the risk of death. Studies on whether the currently authorized vaccines will protect people against the new variants are still on-going.
The increased transmissibility associated with SARS-CoV-2 variants could make control more difficult, therefore it is imperative to protect oneself and others by physical distancing, wearing a mask, keeping rooms well-ventilated, avoiding crowds, washing hands, and coughing into a bent elbow or tissue.
Reference: US Centers for Disease Prevention and Control (US CDC) and World Health Organization (WHO)
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