A virus, like COVID-19, doesn’t simply exist. It can also create variants of itself via mutation. So, though we already long to see our loved ones, we still have to fight back against that unseen enemy.
Here’s what we know about it, including its many forms — or rather, variants.
A brief background of COVID-19
We know the cause of this pandemic. We call it by its many names: COVID. COVID-19. The Coronavirus. More humorously, people call it the ‘Rona. Some people have even gone so far as to call it “Miss Rona,” calling the pandemic “Miss Rona’s World Tour.”
On a more serious note, the virus itself is named SARS-CoV-2. It rose in October or November 2019 in Guangdong. On December 1, 2019, the medical peer-reviewed journal The Lancet reported the earliest onset of virus symptoms. The first human-to-human transmission was confirmed on January 20, 2020.
The most common symptoms of the virus include:
- loss of taste and/or smell
Additional symptoms are
- sore throat
- body pain
- rashes on the skin
- discolored fingers or toes
- red eyes
It can ultimately depend on whether or not all symptoms listed will show in an infectee, as some patients have reported can have a combination of symptoms. Meanwhile, others can be asymptomatic. Though they show none of these symptoms, they can transmit the virus.
The most glaring symptoms are chest pain and breathing difficulties, and loss of speech or mobility.
Hospitalization and death count
COVID-19 has caused many cases and deaths since it first popped up. As of this writing, it’s at almost 220 million cases and caused nearly 5 million deaths.
On the CDC’s Variant Tracker page, it states: “Variants of SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, are expected to continue to emerge. Some will emerge and disappear, and others will emerge and continue to spread and may replace previous variants.”
Variants have three classifications. An epidemiologist from the University of Ottawa, Raywat Deonandan, stated that a Variant of Interest is either:
- “suspected” to either be more contagious than the initial strain;
- can cause more severe disease; or
- can escape the protection offered by vaccines;
So, a Variant of Concern can do two or more of the above points, resulting in a wider spread, more cases, and potentially more deaths.
Now, a Variant of High Consequences puts a lot more people in the hospital. Not only that, vaccines do nothing against it. Neither can antiviral drugs nor monoclonal antibodies. Such a classification might not be very comforting, but there aren’t any variants of this nature so far. So this news should be a cause for relief as much as a cause to hurry and get vaccinated.
You see, variants are going to keep cropping up the more the population dilly-dallies on inoculation. Vaccines “are effective at keeping people from getting COVID-19, getting very sick, and dying.” Not only that, the CDC can’t guarantee the effectiveness of the vaccines against new variants.
The CDC says that even though you can get tested for COVID, the test can’t precisely tell you what variant you have. Here’s a list of variants and their backgrounds.
Variants of Interest
Though these are offshoots of the infamous COVID-19 virus, these variants aren’t as popular. They’re also the least dangerous compared to the Variants of Concern. Still, it’s essential to be familiar with them.
Here are the COVID-19 Variants of Interest:
- Eta. With a Pango Lineage of B.1.525, the Eta variant was documented in multiple countries.
- Iota. Iota is another COVID-19 variant that originates from the United States. Its Pango Lineage is B.1.526
- Kappa. Kappa’s lineage is B.1.617.1. The variant is from India
- Lambda. The Lambda variant’s Pango Lineage is C.37 and was documented in Peru.
- Mu. With a Pango Lineage of B.1.621, the Mu variant was discovered in Colombia
There are other VOIs that also boast Greek letters as names. One example is the Epsilon variant, documented initially in Southern California of the United States. In addition, there is an unnamed variant with a Lineage of B.1.617.3, discovered in India.
Variants of Concern
These variants are the type that we will hear about more often than the last classification. One of these variants is the dreaded Delta variant.
From here on, here are the COVID-19 Variants of Concern:
With a Pango Lineage of B.1.1.7, the Alpha variant was identified in the United Kingdom. It spreads faster than other variants listed here. It may also cause more cases and deaths. Fortunately, though, it’s still no match for vaccines.
First spotted in South Africa, the Beta variant B.1.351 is a breather from the Alpha variant. It isn’t as severe with its cases or deaths compared to other variants. However, just as with the Alpha variant, it may still spread faster. You can still avoid this variant with FDA-approved vaccines.
The Gamma variant with Pango Lineage P.1, spotted in Japan and Brazil, is a variant that’s also faster than others, yet its case numbers aren’t as bad. But, again, approved vaccines can keep this variant off your back.
The Delta variant was first discovered in India, and it is much faster than other variants on this list. As of this writing, the Delta variant is the most common one in the United States. However, according to MayoClinic, “fully vaccinated people with breakthrough infections accompanied by symptoms can also spread the illness to others.” That’s right! That’s how dangerous the Delta variant is. Nevertheless, only a tiny percentage of fully vaxxed people can get infected. Vaccines are the go-to; they’ll keep you from getting ill and dying.
Each variant is a reason to get vaccinated. To slow down, and eventually halt COVID in its tracks, do your part, and get your jabs as soon as possible. If you can’t get them for whatever reason, stay at home as much as possible. Wear masks and face shields if it’s necessary to go outside.