It appears the coronavirus pandemic would not be going away any time soon, even with the gradual roll-out of vaccines in some countries. New covid strains have emerged, and it seems the pandemic will be here longer than expected.
This raises several critical questions: are the new covid strains more contagious? Will the vaccines still be effective against the new covid strains? Will you be required to adopt new measures to keep you and your family safe?
Why new covid strains are emerging
There is no doubt that new covid strains are emerging from different corners of the world, potentially throwing everyone into a fresh wave of panic. A CDC report indicates the following:
- The United Kingdom (UK): A new covid strain, B.1.1.7, reportedly with many mutations, emerged in the fall of 2020. Experts in the UK report that this variant spreads more quickly than others and may be behind the new wave of coronavirus-related deaths in the country. This variant was also spotted in the US towards the end of 2020.
- South Africa: The South African nation reported a new variant dubbed B.1.351 in October 2020. This new covid strain shares mutation characteristics with the B.1.1.7 variant and new coronavirus cases caused by this strain were reported in the US in January 2021.
- Brazil: Travelers from Brazil, in routine testing at an airport in Japan, tested positive for a new variant, P.1, in early January 2021. This strain contains additional mutations which make it difficult for anti-bodies to recognize them. Towards the end of January 2021, the strain showed up in the US.
New covid strains continue to show up in different parts of the world, and you may wonder if we would ever go back to normal. Well, experts suggest that viruses keep changing depending on their environment as a means of survival. The nature of the RNA viruses, such as coronavirus, is such that they have to change and evolve gradually.
Robert Bollinger, M.D., M.P.H., and Stuart Ray, M.D., who are experts in SARS-CoV-2, the culprit behind the COVID-19 pandemic, explain why new covid strains have emerged and will continue to arise. Citing common flu, Bollinger maintains that all RNA viruses mutate over time, hence, the reason doctors recommend new vaccines every year.
Going by this revelation from virus experts, the world should brace for new COVID-19 strains over time. So far, multiple variants of the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus are quite different from the first version detected in China in 2019.
How many COVID-19 mutations are there?
Scientists have been ringing alarm bells about the new B.1.1.7 highly infectious coronavirus variant first spotted in the UK, and now have to contend with several other new covid strains that are proliferating in the US as well. So, just how many coronavirus mutations are there?
A team of doctors and researchers from universities in the US have identified at least 7 new covid strains. A CNN report shows that each of these new covid strains have an altered protein spike, and each seems to have evolved differently, a clear indication that this virus may be more prone to mutation than previously thought.
Since it's becoming tricky to keep track of all the new covid strains with names like B.1.1.7, scientists have decided to find a simpler way of naming them. They are now naming each of the regional variants after birds, as follows:
- Robin 1: Initially common in the Midwest, this variant has spread to at least 30 states.
- Pelican: First spotted in Oregon, but has since spread to 12 more states, and has even gone across borders to other countries including Switzerland, Australia, and India.
- Research is still on-going to identify and name new covid strains.
The psychological impact of new covid strains
The first version of the virus was bad enough, causing widespread fear and devastation the world over. Millions of infections, out of which nearly 2.5 million people have lost their lives to the pandemic, and a global total of about 23 million active cases, paints a grim picture of the initial strain of COVID-19 first detected in Wuhan, China.
While the world was on the verge of breathing a sigh of relief after nearly a year of devastation and lockdown, it seems everyone would have to learn to leave with the virus, adapting to the new normal: wearing masks, keeping social distance, and regular hand-washing with soap and an alcohol-based sanitizer.
The psychological impact of the new covid strains, as would be expected, would include a fresh wave of panic, fear, and desperation, even as a growing number of countries roll out a vaccine for their populations. It is not exactly clear if the vaccines would still be effective for the new covid strains variants, or whether the new covid strains would be deadlier than the original Wuhan version.
However, the sensitivity to the virus may decline with the coming of new covid strains, resulting in a New Normal situation. This means that people are getting used to the coronavirus and the various regulations in place to help fight it. We may as well accept it as the new way of life.
Coping with new covid strains
Since the virus has changed our way of life and has become a New Normal, you have no choice but to become proactive in coping with the situation. New Covid strains may not necessarily mean new measures to contain them but may lead to higher infection rates.
Be sure you don't take chances with the new covid strains. Wear your mask everywhere. And talking about masks, you may wonder if some are more effective than others. Cloth masks are good, the blue ones are better, but the N95 masks are the best way to go. Also be sure to observe the social distance, and wash your hands regularly with plenty of soap and running water.
We at Protect Life strive to provide the most effective masks to protect people from COVID-19, as well as the new covid strains. You need to learn to live with the virus, and the best way is to keep your mask on. Please contact us if you need more information on the best masks to use.