How Many New Coronavirus Variants Are There?
The second wave of Covid-19 in India caused by mutations and newer variants of the virus has been devastating for most of us, in one way or the other. Adarsh went through an infection herself and now is more conscious about precautions than ever. However, information about newer variants of the virus is scarce.
Without proper information about the variants, it is impossible to know how to have added protection against them. In this article, we’ll be telling readers like Anjali about the new Coronavirus variants that have emerged. This will help them take necessary precautions that protect them against all of the variants.
How Many Coronaviruses Are There?
It is a common misconception that Coronavirus has popped up recently. On the contrary, Coronaviruses are a large family of viruses spread all over the world, the first of which was identified back in 1965. It causes a variety of illnesses, ranging from mild cough to severe respiratory illnesses.
The virus from the Coronavirus family that has caused the Covid-19 pandemic was the new (or “novel”) coronavirus, one of several known to infect humans. According to scientists, it has probably been around for some time in animals and now crossed over into people.
When scientists found out that the virus was making people sick in 2019, they named it novel coronavirus. It is also called SARS-CoV-2 by the experts.
New Coronavirus Variants that you Should be Aware of
In order to take precautions that protect her against all the coronavirus variants, Anjali needs to know the properties of all the variants. Take a look at the most dominant coronavirus variants that have wreaked havoc across the globe:
- Alpha (B.1.1.7) – The Alpha variant, which emerged in late 2020 from southeastern England, was caused because of the gene mutations in the virus. The mutations could make the virus up to 70% more transmissible according to scientists, which makes it spread more easily. This coronavirus variant has been found in various other countries, including the US.
The variant has also been linked to a higher risk of death by some research. However, the evidence of greater severity isn’t strong. The mutation on the alpha variant happens on the spike protein, which is what vaccines target. So, it is highly unlikely that the vaccine’s effectiveness will take a hit with the presence of a single mutation in the spike protein.
- Beta (B.1.351) – This type of variant spreads more easily and has a greater chance of transmission than the original virus. However, this variant doesn’t seem to cause more severe symptoms than the original one. South Africa and Nigeria were the first countries to observe the presence of this variant.
The Beta variant developed around the same time as alpha did but failed to take off in the same way. This variant, also known as B.1.351, has several significant mutations to the virus’ spike protein that make it easy to infect people. These mutations are also said to make it harder to treat or to prevent with Covid vaccines.
- Gamma (P.1) – The gamma variant was first spotted in people from Brazil who’d traveled to Japan. By the end of that month, it was found to infect people in the U.S. It is evident that the coronavirus variant is much more contagious than earlier strains of the virus.
A noteworthy detail about the virus is its ability to infect people who’ve already recovered from a COVID-19 infection. Early research suggests that the variant’s changes help it evade the antibodies created by the person’s immune system when they recovered from the Covid infection they had previously.
- Delta (B.1.617.2)- The Delta variant of coronavirus was spotted in India in December 2020 and was the reason for the deadly second wave. The huge surge in cases in Mid-April 2021 was fueled by the phenomenally high transmissibility of the variant. To compare, this variant is more transmissible than the Alpha variant. It is now found in 43 countries including the U.S., U.K., Australia, and Singapore.
The highly contagious strain can also reduce the effectiveness of antibodies drastically and cause severe symptoms. Another property that makes this coronavirus variant different from the others is that it causes more cases of COVID-19 in young people.
The strain has now become a dominant strain in the U.K. because of travel from India and community spread. However, the variant isn’t likely to cause much harm in the U.S. because of the overall vaccination rates.
Will the COVID-19 vaccines work on the new variants?
The effectiveness of vaccines is not equal against all strains. It is protected against variants closely related to the vaccine virus, and less effective against mutated variants. The vaccine’s effectiveness varies by the type of vaccine, location, and virus variant. Thus, preventive measures at your end must not end once you’re partially, or even fully vaccinated.
That being said, there is hope at the end of the tunnel. This means that getting about 70-80% of the population vaccinated will result in herd immunity. This will be crucial for ending the chain of mutations and flattening the curve. Until then, people like Anjali who religiously follow all the necessary preventive measures will help us prevent infection and avoid subsequent waves.
Make sure you follow these preventive measures to do your end of things in the pandemic:
- Wash and sanitize your hands regularly
- Disinfect your home properly
- Only head out when it is necessary
- Follow social distancing in public places
- Wear two masks in public places
The Bottom Line
Newer variants of viruses have been known to transmit more quickly and have greater chances of severe symptoms. They have caused public health systems to collapse across the globe. Hence, knowing about their properties will help Anjali and all of us take necessary precautions against the virus.
Measures like double masking, frequent hand washes, and properly disinfected surroundings will go a long way in preventing infection and ensuring safety for us and our families. In addition, while the vaccines are less effective against the new coronavirus variants, they drastically decrease the chance of severe symptoms and death. Hence, you must get fully vaccinated to minimize the chances of infections as well as severe symptoms against new coronavirus variants,