The novel coronavirus placed us all in uncharted waters and upended the normal course of our lives. While the world was still reeling from its after-effects, news of a new variant of the covid-19 virus made its appearance across the UK. The rapid spread of the new strain in London and south of England prompted Prime Minister Boris Johnson to impose a strict lockdown. Several neighbouring countries also imposed ban on travel to and from the UK.
Two particular variants had been reported to WHO. One was identified in the UK while the other was identified in South Africa. Both these variants have caused an increase in the number of cases in both countries, which is why there is a widespread concern.
The new UK variant, named B117 virus, isn’t the only discovered mutation of Covid-19. Generally, viruses have a nasty tendency to evolve fast in response to our immunity. Thus, multiple strains already exist. But this one appears to have left scientists worried because it is more contagious.
Epidemiologists and virologists say that this new variant is 70% more transmissible compared to other strains. But there is good news. Scientists have also found that the B117 virus isn’t causing a more severe illness compared to other strains. The only danger that it poses is it is highly communicable.
The effectiveness of the new Covid-19 vaccine is yet to be seen. However, new research is already being undertaken to check the vaccine’s efficacy in developing immunity against the new variant. With all the rumours doing the rounds, we’ve been relegated to a period of scientific uncertainty. Many of us are struggling to make sense of what’s going on and lack of enough information is giving rise to myths which need to be busted.
Here are four common myths about the new traces:
Fact: The recent boom in Covid-19 strain-related news coverage make it look as though these new variants appeared on the scene out of nowhere. However, this kind of situation isn’t new. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has stated in detail that viruses constantly change their form through mutation, and new variants of a virus are likely to occur over time.
Since the global pandemic began, medical officials have been prepared for new strains to emerge and spread. But the way these variants have spread signals the fact that they were around much before health officials took note of them.
Fact: Currently, no one can really tell if the new strain is more likely to cause acute illness or even deaths. Scientists do expect more variants to develop as the pandemic progresses–but it isn’t necessary that they would be worse. Generally, the way in which variants evolve over a period is they become less virulent and more contagious. Viruses do not want to kill their hosts, rather continue spreading. This is why it’s less likely that a deadlier form would evolve.
Fact: Yes, the new variants of coronavirus are spreading much quickly around the world and could become the predominant strain, as per CDC. However, this doesn’t mean that there aren’t ways to mitigate it. The health protocols which helped fight against the original strain of the virus can also help fight the new variants. Measures like wearing masks, washing hands and social distancing will all have to be followed. Now is also a good time to double mask, as per health experts. And it’s important that we get vaccinated as soon as possible.
Fact: At this point, both the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines can apparently protect against the known variants of Covid-19 to some extent. Though the manufacturers of these vaccines have stated that these are less potent against the South Africa strain, that is not to say these vaccines won’t work at all. Several prominent researchers and physicians are hopeful that the existing vaccines will work on the new variants.
The unpredictable nature of Covid-19 virus is proving to be a tough nut to crack. However, the best way to combat any strain of Covid, according to the WHO, is to stringently observe the Covid protocol. Therefore, we need to continue taking precautions. Meanwhile, efforts are still underway to learn more about coronavirus and its new variants.