Covid-19 Variants


Catie Tang, Copy Editor

With Covid cases and deaths rising, Covid variants have been added to the mix. The rise of Covid variants increases the concern of whether covid vaccines are effective against these viruses. So far, there have been three confirmed variants: the Brazil variant (P.1), the UK variant (B.1.1.7), and the South African variant (B.1.351). The UK variant has now dominated much of Britain and has spread to more than 50 countries and seems to be mutating again. The South Africa variant is found in at least 20 other countries, including the UK. The newest covid variant P.1 was discovered in January, in Brazil. It was identified when four travelers from Brazil were being tested during routine screening at the Haneda Airport outside of Tokyo, Japan. So, what’s different about these variants? The Brazil variant (P.1), the UK variant (B.1.1.7), and the South African variant (B.1.351) can be more contagious or easier to catch. All three variants have gone through changes to their spike protein (the part of the virus that attaches to human cells). Consequently, this seems to have made them better at infecting cells and spreading. Experts think that the UK strain, that came about in September, could be up to 70% more contagious than the original virus. The South Africa strain, that came about in October, could potentially have more prominent changes in the spike protein. So far, there has been no evidence that these variants are more dangerous than the original. Although, there is some research suggesting that the UK variant may have a 30% higher risk of death. However, this research has not been conclusive. Actions such as washing hands, disinfecting all areas, wearing masks, and staying at home can still help prevent contracting the virus.