There are several new covid strains that researchers have recently discovered. They all share some characteristics but are very different in their own right. There’s a strain out of England and now scientists are finding new strains in the United States.
So, what does it all mean? Let’s take a look at the latest research, what it all means, and the new step you can take to protect yourself.
The B.1.351 variant, originally discovered in South Africa and later in two dozen countries, is now in the United States. The mutation appears to spread more easily than other variants, but there is no evidence that it is more lethal or causes more severe illness.
The U.K. strain is commonly known as B.1.1.7. It is considered to be much more contagious than the current strain. British scientists estimate it could be as much as 70% more transmissible.
And while the variant was thought to have similar disease and mortality rates as the current strain, a new study suggests that the new, more contagious strain of coronavirus could be deadlier.
Scientists at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center and College of Medicine recently discovered a new variant that carries a mutation to the U.K. strain, but it likely arose in a virus strain already present in the United States.
That same group of researchers also say that another U.S. strain acquired three other gene mutations not previously seen together in SARS-CoV2.
Viruses naturally mutate and evolve over time, but the changes scientists have seen in the last two months are more prominent than in the first months of the pandemic.
The big question is whether we’ll need to develop more vaccines to combat these mutations. At this point, there is no data that leads researchers to believe that these mutations will have any impact on the effectiveness of vaccines now in use.
Researchers also say that it is important that we don’t overreact to this new variant. More information is needed. For now, scientists will monitor its impact on human health and base their decisions on that.
In order to protect yourself from the new coronavirus strain, you should continue to take a lot of the precautions you’re already taking. Things like social distancing, washing your hands, and staying at home as much as possible.
But there is something else you can do: double masking. It’s as simple as placing a second mask over the one you already wear, or better yet, wearing a fabric mask on top of a surgical mask.
As a refresher: If you’re going to be within 6 feet of someone from outside your bubble, you should wear a mask, especially if you’re indoors. For indoor settings or crowded outdoor ones, considering two masks right now is prudent.
What’s also concerning is that we’re just hitting the peak of flu season and the symptoms of seasonal flu and COVID-19 are very similar. To help you determine the difference between the two, we’ve developed a guide: “Flu vs Coronavirus.” Inside you’ll find all of the information you need to determine whether or not you should see your doctor.