Updated: Jan 27, 2021
The Coronavirus (COVID-19) has been ravaging the world for over ten months now. With schools turning virtual, millions losing their jobs, and thousands dying every day, there is no doubt that COVID-19 has genuinely changed our lives. On top of all of this, the announcement of a new COVID-19 strain in December caused a commotion. What exactly is this strain, how has it affected people so far, and are we in any more danger than we were before this strain was discovered?
So what exactly is a strain of a virus? Virus strains are viruses that belong to the same species but contain a mutation in their genes. Strains of viruses are not unheard of, as almost all viruses tend to mutate over time. An example of this can be seen in the flu. Health experts recommend we get the vaccine every year because the flu is constantly mutating. Virus mutations can simply change the shape of a virus or can go beyond that and affect the behavior of the virus and attributes such as transmissibility.
According to the CDC, this new strain of COVID-19, initially discovered in the UK, seems to be spreading much faster than other variants. According to Dr. Anthony Fauci, the virus is better “able to bind to the receptors on cells,” causing it to become more transmissible. Thankfully though, this new strain does not seem to be any more dangerous than other variants. Dr. Robert Bollinger M.D. explains that it would be favorable for a virus if it can keep the infected person alive to promote spreading and not be strong enough to kill that person and stop transmission. This is exactly what seems to be happening in this new strain.
The increased transmissibility of this new strain has made hospitals all across the United States and around the world be on high alert. Cases have been reported in three US states, including Florida, Colorado, and California.
In terms of protecting ourselves from this new strain of COVID-19, we must continue to follow CDC guidelines and basic recommendations put in place by health experts to stop the spread of this virus. These include: wearing masks in public, social distancing, avoiding large gatherings, avoiding touching your face, and washing and sanitizing your hands frequently.
Following these basic guidelines will not only keep us safe, but save the lives of countless others.