Multiple variants of the coronavirus have been identified and deemed as more transmissible. The variants gaining the most attention in the media include those from South Africa, Brazil, and the U.K. All three variants contain mutations that occur in the spike protein, which is the protein that attaches to receptors in human cells. As most of the evidence is preliminary, there is still a lot of uncertainty surrounding these variants.
Recently, the U.K. variant has caused further concern among British government scientists. Not only is the U.K. variant more contagious, but it could potentially be more deadly. The variant, also known as B.1.1.7, is responsible for the recent increase in death rates related to COVID-19. It’s not entirely clear why, but treatments against this particular variant might be less effective. The CDC predicts that this could be the dominant variant circulating this year.
The Truth About Mutations and Variants
The coronavirus mutates every few weeks, but not every mutation poses a huge risk. The term “variant” describes cases where a virus undergoes multiple significant mutations. While most of these mutations will not have much of an impact, some may provide the virus with an advantage, including the ability to spread more quickly.
Variants of concern, or VOCs, are genetic variations that have been recognized as having an impact on the virus’s spread and severity and the effectiveness of vaccines and treatment. The three variants circulating globally mentioned above, from the U.K., South Africa, and Brazil, do not necessarily have more severe outcomes on an individual level. Rather, each of these variants appears to be more infectious, allowing them to spread faster.
Ultimately, faster transmission results in more COVID-19 infections among people. In some cases, people who are exposed to variants become infectious within hours or a couple of days of being exposed. Initially, the typical incubation period for COVID-19 was between 5 and 8 days.
The vaccinations from Pfizer and Moderna appear to be effective against the U.K. variant. However, information regarding COVID-19 vaccinations changes rapidly, and the vaccination rollout process appears to be moving in slow-motion, meaning the battle is far from over.
More research is needed before confirming any information regarding variants. With the report of new variants, it seems like most things surrounding the coronavirus will continue to be uncertain. Unfortunately, this is our reality right now. All that said, there are proven safety measures we can implement to all to play our part in fighting the virus, including those in the approach below.
Taking the “Do it all” Approach Up a Notch
The key to keeping ourselves and others safe is by following the “do it all” approach: wear a mask, social distance, and clean your hands. If you have to go back into the office or into a public space, make sure there is proper ventilation and that the workspaces are sanitized regularly. Still, no one method is guaranteed to be more effective than another, which is why they all need to be done at the same time. And, there is a new technology to add to our “do it all” approach toolkit: COVID PreCheck.
COVID PreCheck is a web app accessible on smartphones to share and screen health statuses regarding COVID-19 diagnosis and symptoms. The platform enables users to share their health information with other users and physicians securely. After inputting health information, a QR code is generated to show proof that you are COVID-free.
With the COVID PreCheck self-assessment test, users can check in on themselves to report if they have been experiencing any symptoms. If they have, there are resources available through the app to find nearby physicians that can order and perform COVID-19 testing. Physicians also have access to the platform to share users’ health information regarding their COVID diagnosis.
As countries begin to ease restrictions during this time of uncertainty while new variants are being uncovered, the only way to prepare is by taking all necessary precautions possible. Start using the COVID PreCheck app moving forward to keep yourself and your organization safe by reducing the spread of the coronavirus.