Over the past few weeks, news of a new coronavirus variant has dominated media circles. Now, with more variants on the rise, it is more important than ever to remain safe and educated about the ever-evolving COVID-19 pandemic.
The B.1.1.7 Variant
This new coronavirus variant, known as B.1.1.7, was first recorded in the United Kingdom in late November and has since spread to several countries around the world including both Canada and the United States. Though many mutations have been recorded worldwide throughout the course of the pandemic, this specific variant is notable due to the number of mutations it has undergone and the quick rate at which it has spread.
Additional variants have emerged in countries like South Africa and Nigeria. Though the variant in South Africa shares some mutations with the variant in the UK, the two emerged completely independently of one another. The variant in South Africa also spreads more quickly and easily than previous versions of the virus, however, it does not currently appear to cause more severe symptoms or an increased risk of death. The variant found in Nigeria is also being monitored by the CDC, but it neither appears to cause worsened illness or increased spread, at this time. Though B.1.1.7. has been recorded in the United States, researchers expect similar, homegrown variants to begin emerging in the coming months.
Important Information to Note
Though many have called this new variant a strain, the two descriptors are not synonymous. Whereas virus strains can only be up to 94 percent genetically identical to the original virus, a variant can be almost completely identical. For example, this new coronavirus variant is over 99.99 percent identical to its predecessor.
Throughout the coronavirus pandemic, it is important to remember that all viruses change constantly. New mutations are seen all the time with just about all known diseases. New variants can emerge and disappear without warning, so it is crucial to study the virus and to maintain social distancing and other safety measures. It is equally vital to understand that this variant is not believed to be more likely to result in severe symptoms or death and is likely still covered by the current COVID-19 vaccines.
The term coronavirus encompasses a large family of viruses named for the crown-like protein spikes that surround their exteriors. COVID-19 is caused by the coronavirus named severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2). Coronaviruses can cause other diseases as well, including the common cold, severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS), and Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS).
We hope this information on the new coronavirus variant is helpful to you.
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