The Latest News About Covid-19 and Its Variants

COVID-19 continues to ravage the globe. In the United States alone, in January 2022, daily counts of new cases are routinely above 700,000 per day.

One challenge that medical professionals and individuals face is understanding the different variants of the disease. As COVID-19 spreads through populations, its genetic material mutates and forms new variants. This is quite common with RNA viruses such as coronavirus. These variants differ from the original disease and each other in terms of severity, transmissibility, and the effectiveness of available treatments against them.

The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) currently classifies variants into four different classes: variants being monitored, variants of interest, variants of concern, and variants of high consequence. The World Health Organization (WHO) currently names noteworthy variants after Greek letters.

The Delta variant

One of the variants that have affected many people is Delta. The Delta variant (named after the fourth letter of the Greek alphabet) is considered a “variant of concern” because it is quite easily transmitted from one person to another.

Until late December 2021, Delta was the most prominent variant in the United States. It was first identified in India in late 2020 and spread throughout the world rapidly. It is believed to be twice as transmissible as earlier strains of COVID-19, and early studies have shown it may have been more likely than the original disease to cause sufferers to be hospitalized.

Symptoms of the Delta variant of the coronavirus are quite similar to earlier types of the virus. They include a cough, fever, headaches, and loss of smell and taste.

Vaccinations against COVID-19 have been shown to protect against the Delta variant. However, there have been many cases of fully vaccinated individuals becoming infected with the Delta variant. These are known as “breakthrough” infections. However, when vaccinated individuals suffer a breakthrough infection, they often have milder symptoms than do unvaccinated people.

The Omicron variant

The latest variant of COVID-19 is Omicron (named after the fifteenth letter of the Greek alphabet, meaning many different COVID-19 variants are being tracked by the WHO and the CDC.

On November 26, 2021, the WHO classified the Omicron variant as a “variant of concern.” The variant was first identified in South Africa. Since then, it has been spreading rapidly throughout the world. Omicron has spread rapidly because it is believed to be much more transmissible than earlier variants, and also because it has proven adept at infecting people who have already been infected with earlier variants, or who are vaccinated. Data is still showing, however, that vaccinated individuals frequently have more mild symptoms than do unvaccinated people.

Like COVID and its earlier variants, Omicron symptoms include cough, fever, and fatigue. It has also been noted that a sore throat is a common symptom, although those infected with Omicron are less likely to lose their taste and smell than people who had Delta or other variants.

The risks posed by variants

Each mutation or variant of the original strain of COVID-19 contains different genetic codes. These differences can make it difficult to predict when vaccinations and treatments will be effective against new variants.

The coronavirus has thus far surprised many experts with its ability to mutate and evolve, and will likely continue to do so.

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