COVID Variants: What's the big deal?
Updated: Jun 21, 2022
Now all we hear in the news is about the delta variant. Let's be clear this is not a fear tactic blog post to influence your decision to get vaccinated, it's just facts based on the data. The more informed you are the better equipped you are to make decisions for yourself and your family.
We are all familiar with the O.G COVID-19, but just to recap: SARS-CoV-2 was identified at the end of 2019 as the cause of a cluster of pneumonia cases in Wuhan, China. It resulted in an epidemic followed by our current global pandemic.
What is a Variant?
When any living organism replicates there are chances for small genetic mistakes to happen; these mistakes are what healthcare professionals call 'variants'. Just like all other viruses, COVID-19 will mutate and over time and some variants will replace others. Why? Because only the mutations that make the virus more fit for survival will continue to replicate. It's survival of the fittest and unfortunately at our expense.
Delta isn't the only variant
There have been five COVID variants that researchers have been watching:
Alpha Variant- was prevalent in the United Kingdom in late 2020 and was associated with an increase of regional infections.
Beta Variant- was detected in South Africa in late 2020.
Gamma Variant- was first identified in Japan in late December 2020.
Epsilon Variant- was detected in October 2020, but there were only four cases reported in Southern California.
Delta Variant- was first identified in India in 2020 and is now the prevalent strain in the United States.
Why is delta more transmissible?
What makes COVID-19 unique is its spike protein; it allows for the adherence to host cells (i.e., us). The mutations that are occurring with COVID viruses tend to deal with the spike protein. These mutations could cause several changes that increase its chances for survival such, it can gain greater adherence to the ACE2 receptors in the lungs, the mutation could lead to increased survival time when outside of the host, it could cause the virus to be more resistant to antibodies that are either produced from a previous infection and/or immunization; this type of mutation would also make the variant less receptive to monoclonal antibodies (a form of treatment used to treat COVID positive patients in the early stages).
Our current situation is dynamic so, scientists and healthcare professionals don’t have a clear understanding as to why the delta variant is more transmissible. But we do know how to reduce your risk of contracting the virus and guess what? You’ve been hearing them for over a year now:
Social distance when possible.
Wear a mask.
Hand hygiene (especially before and after removing your mask).
Have you noticed that we are seeing a rise in cases as restrictions have relaxed?
Here are a few other factors that could be leading to increased transmission:
Increased social interactions
Relaxation of public health orders
Unequal distribution of vaccines
Should I be concerned?
That depends. Are you vaccinated? Do you practice social distancing? Do you wear a mask in public settings?
I know what you are thinking, “she’s pro-lock down and pro-vaccine”. The answer is yes and no. I do believe that vaccines serve their purpose in reducing your overall risk of severe illness and death (we will save that post for another day), but you have the right to informed refusal and yes you have the right to not wear a mask- We support your decisions!
We know the measures listed above significantly reduce the transmission because the virus is less likely to enter your mucous membranes and begin replicating (i.e., make you sick). So, I leave you with. . . Know your risk and adjust your lifestyle according to the risks you are willing to take.
As always if you need a COVID-19 test, are ill from COVID-19 and need to be seen or just have questions regarding COVID-19 or vaccine please contact our office.