Since its outbreak in early 2020, COVID-19 has quickly changed the way almost everyone conducts their daily business. However, with the release of numerous vaccines, hope spread that soon the virus would be under control so that this new normal would fade to be little more than a memory, similar to the outbreak of the Spanish flu in 1918. Unfortunately, as more and more variants are identified, hope fades as more questions arise. Luckily, with the availability of COVID-19 test kits, we are able to track the virus better than in the early stages. To help you understand more about these variants and how they can be defended against, here is what you need to know.
Why Do Variants Occur?
Varients of viruses occur due to mutations that impact the virus’s genes. RNA viruses, such as coronavirus, evolve genetically distinct variants over time. This is demonstrated in the need for new flu vaccines each year as new strains are detected and grow to become the dominant variant to infect populations.
Viruses often mutate and develop variants as they adapt to the changing conditions around them. For instance, a growing antibody response against a virus may cause it to mutate to undermine that effect to make infection more viable. Viruses are all about survival and they mutate and evolve in order to continue existing.
Dominant Varients of SARS-CoV-2
Since its first detection, coronavirus has experienced many mutations, the most dominant being the Delta variant which was labeled as a “variant of concern” by the World Health Organization due to its ability to be contracted easily, allowing it to spread more rapidly than other variants. As of September 2021, it is largely regarded as the most contagious form of the virus.
Recently a new sub-strain known as Delta Plus has been identified in at least 44 countries and 41 U.S. states. Confirmed in the UK in April of 2021, this variant is still undergoing study, although preliminary research has shown that the effects of the Pfizer vaccine were only moderately reduced by this variant, making vaccinations still one of the best defenses against this and any other variant of the virus.
Delta Plus is believed to have originated in India, the same country from which Delta originally mutated, and according to India’s Health Ministry, this variant is as easy to spread as the original Delta mutation, and it is capable of binding to the lungs more easily, while potentially being resistant to monoclonal antibody therapy. Despite this, Professor Ravindra Gupta of the University of Cambridge states that this variant is unlikely to cause more severe illness.
Currently, along with Delta and Delta Plus, the World Health Organization has identified variants Eta, Iota, Kappa, and Lambda as variants of interest, and they are tracking 13 additional variants that have arisen across the globe.
What Can Be Done to Stem the Spread of Variants?
In order to prevent the spread of coronavirus and its variants, care should be taken to wear protective equipment, get vaccinated, and maintain social distancing when possible.
When around other people, a multi-layered mask that fits without gaps should be worn. Everyone should maintain a six-foot distance when possible around those outside of their households. Frequent handwashing and disinfecting should be done to help stop transmission.
Symptoms of COVID-19 may start to appear between two and 14 days after exposure, and even if you are vaccinated, you should take care to isolate yourself if you are experiencing any symptoms. Covid-19 test kits can be used to help test yourself for infection, and they should be used before allowing yourself to return to work or go out into public. Any of the variants are capable of being detected by Covid-19 test kits, so you don’t need to worry about a strain that can potentially go undetected or produce a false negative.
In the early days of Covid-19, there was hope that it would eventually fade away to be a distant memory. However, as variants continue to mutate and infect large populations through easier transmission, preparation and defense should not be neglected in favor of attempting to reclaim a sense of prior normalcy. Although it may take time, using Covid-19 test kits, getting vaccinated, and taking proper precautions is the best hope we have now to help keep the pandemic under control.