Originating from Wuhan, China, Covid-19 has taken over the world. For the past two years, we have been fighting to end this pandemic, but the question often arises: what is variant? New variants erupting every now and then have made it difficult to control the virus from spreading. Just in time, when we are dealing with the Omicron variant of the coronavirus, another new coronavirus variant has been detected in France.
The mutations of the virus have boggled the medical and scientific experts as well. However, as per the reports by the World Health Organization, the new coronavirus variant, B.1.640.2, which was founded in France in October is not much of a concern.
As per the report by NYTimes, the new variant was initially detected in a small number of people in France in October and in November the details were uploaded to a database for the disease variant, GISAID. The expert says that only 20 samples have been found so far and only one case has surfaced since December.
A Covid incident Manager, Abdi Mahmud, told the Geneva reporters that the agency has been looking into this new French variant since November, but the virus has not spread widely since the agency is examining it. However, he also warned, “That virus has had a lot of chances to pick up.”
The World Health Organization is currently focusing on the Omicron variant that was added in GISAID in November and has more than 120,000 sequences in the records. However, a major chunk of the Omicron variant sequence is not recorded yet. As per WHO’s finding, the variant has been spreading with a record-high number of cases and is already reported in 128 countries.
While WHO says the French variant is not much of a concern when it was found that this new variant has over 46 mutations and most of them are different from the original version of Covid-19, it started concerning many researchers. The reason being, Omicron variant also has a high number of mutations, which has become the reason for its widespread and making it more transmissible than its predecessors.
Is the new French variant – I.H.U a cause of concern?
According to a research paper that has not been peer-reviewed as of yet, published in December on the preprint server, B.1.640.2 originated from southeastern France. A vaccinated man who had recently traveled from Cameroon became the first victim of the virus. Currently, the stats are at 12 cases and the name, I.H.U for this new coronavirus variant has been kept after a research institute in Marseille, where it was first identified.
Due to lack of data researchers believe, “It is too early to speculate on virological, epidemiological or clinical features of this I.H.U. variant based on these 12 cases.”
As coronavirus has been spreading rapidly for the past two years while developing new variants and bringing in new mutations, scientists are still confused over how the virus is spreading because of its complexity. However, for the new French variant, the independent researchers believe that it is not much of a concern for the time being.
A virologist at Imperial College, London, Tom Peacock tweeted, “this virus has had a decent chance to cause trouble but never really materialized.”
While this new variant is not a threat currently, the Omicron variant has been spreading across the world and has stats over a billion cases.
Let’s have a look back at all the variants of the Covid-19 that have been coming up for the past two years and have caused havoc in the world.
Coronavirus Variants/Covid Variant
Sars Cov 2 or popularly known as Covid-19 among the masses was the first virus that initially looked like influenza, but soon it became a cause of concern due to rapid transmission and spread across the world causing deaths and infecting millions. The first case was reported in Wuhan, China, in November of 2019. However, by 2020, it spread across the world causing the countries to go on lockdowns and stopping the economic activities, which resulted in further economic destruction.
However, we have just entered 2022, which marks two years in the pandemic and since then new variants have erupted from different parts of the world, which spread across the countries. Find below the top variants of Covid-19, that have been mutating into different viruses and have become the cause of concern not only for the researchers and scientists but for the general public as well.
All of these variants were named after Greek alphabets by the World Health Organization, starting with the first, “Alpha variant” to the current widely spreading “Omicron Variant.”
Starting with the current and moving on to its predecessors, let’s discuss the Covid-19 variants in detail.
The Omicron variant, which is also a “variant of concern” originated from a South African country, Botswana in November of 2021. Soon after the first case was identified, the variant spread across the world including the US, which dominates 73% of the cases.
As per the findings from different countries that include South Africa, Denmark, and the United Kingdom, experts believe that this strain will outcompete all the previous variants including the most widely spread strain of the Delta variant.
While there is still much to learn about the mutation of the Omicron variant, the scientists report that there is an abundance of mutations but they are still confused about how these mutations are working together.
What do you need to know about the Omicron variant?
While the reason behind the rapid spread of this variant is still unknown, one thing is sure that it is more transmissible than the previous Delta variant. Moreover, the reason it has become “a variant of concern” is because there are more than 30 mutations on the virus’s spike protein according to the available data and this part of the virus attaches to human cells, increasing the chances of more people to get infected. Apart from that, the experts believe that because it can evade immune responses, it has increased its transmissibility. And those who have been infected by the virus before but have not taken their vaccination shots are at high risk.
Reports from South Africa also suggest that from 300 Omicron cases a day, the number rose to 3000 cases each day by the end of the second week. However, the cases that were reported in South Africa had mild symptoms and most of the demographics that became the victim of it were youngsters.
If you are wondering whether vaccination will help you to safeguard yourself from the Omicron variant, then know that the first man who was infected by the virus was fully vaccinated and the other one even had a booster shot as well. Moreover, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) has warned Americans that as per early reports, those who are vaccinated and are also infected by the Omicron virus will spread it to others.
Apart from this, preliminary data from laboratories suggest that the vaccines are less effective when it comes to fighting with the Omicron variant. However, booster shots might help to mild the symptoms, but the full effectiveness of the vaccine is still in question. This is the reason the three companies that are providing vaccines in the US are doing their research to create a specific vaccine for the Omicron variant.
Current Statistics of Omicron variant: As per Statista, the current number of cases in the US of Omicron variant is 90211, which is an increase of about 73% from the previous week. On the global front, WHO reports more than 15 million new cases with an increase of 55% this week.
The Delta variant or B.1.617.2, which originated from India in late 2020 soon spread across the world like a wildfire. During the time it was a predominant coronavirus strain that was infecting millions of people across the world every day until the Omicron variant was identified in December. However, it doesn’t mean that the Delta variant of Sars Cov 2 has vanished. It is still infecting people and is still a cause of concern because early pieces of evidence suggest that it spreads more rapidly than any other variant. With more than a dozen mutations, even a vaccinated lot is not safe from it.
This makes us wonder what it’s transmission stats are. According to the available data, the Delta variant is twice as contagious as the previous Covid variants. A report from Connecticut suggests that Delta was 80-90 percent more transmissible than the Alpha variant of Covid-19.
Just when the US was about to recover from the destruction that Covid created, there was a decline in the number of cases and hospitalizations, in June. The sudden transmission of the Delta variant reversed the whole progress. Not only the unvaccinated people were severely affected by this variant, but it also started affecting the vaccinated states. During this time, the experts stressed getting booster shots to minimize the effects of Delta.
As per the finding cited by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) from Scotland and Canada, those who were unvaccinated had high chances of hospitalization if infected by the delta strain. Moreover, a report from Lancet suggested that hospitalization in England doubled in the past summer due to the infections caused by Delta.
As for the Delta variant, if you are vaccinated, then there are less likely chances of you getting severely ill or requiring hospitalization. However, there is no data that suggests that vaccines make one 100% immune to the virus. There were many breakthrough cases as well, where many who were fully vaccinated acquired the virus. Although they were infected for a short period. Apart from that, there is still no evidence that if a vaccinated person has an asymptomatic infection from the virus it would not spread to others. This is why CDC came up with “layered Prevention strategies,” which included wearing masks, keeping physical distance, etc.
Delta variant symptoms
While many wrongly refer to it as the Delta Plus variant, this one is a prominent mutation of the Delta Variant itself. However, it consists of some of the mutations that are not found in Delta but are in the other variants. According to the experts, AY.4.2 has AY145H and A222V mutations to its spike protein. Although this Delta Variant is thought to be 10 to 20% more contagious and transmissible, factual data from Great Britain and America suggests otherwise. Moreover, there is no evidence of hospitalizations or deaths from this strain of the Delta variant. And if you are vaccinated, then you must not fear contracting this strain of Delta because vaccines have proved to be effective. However, the experts still suggest “layered prevention strategies” to stay fully safe.
By the end of 2020, the Beta variant, scientifically known as B.1.351, was found in the South African region. Those who had been previously recovered from Covid-19 were getting reinfections, and this is what concerned the experts. They were researching its several mutations along with its intensity to evade the antibodies created by the body in the recovered Covid-19 victims. However, the cases in the US were not as many as in the other parts of the world. And after the Delta variant and the current finding of the Omicron variant, scientists and medical experts alike are not much concerned about it.
Moreover, as per the experts’ research, the transmission chances of the Beta variant is 50% higher than the original strain of Covid-19. Apart from deaths, the Beta variant has caused more hospitalizations and deaths in the world than other variants.
You must follow CDC “layered guidelines for protection against Covid-19” even if you are vaccinated because according to the research, top vaccines given in the US, including Pfizer n Biotech are also less effective against the virus.
Current statistics of Beta Variant: Statista reports 3127 cases from Beta variant in the US. To check the global tally from each country, click on the link.
The first-ever Covid-19 strain that came out in November of 2020 in Great Britain caused infection surges and hospitalizations by the end of December 2020. During this time the B variant also heightened. Since the hospitalization and deaths started to increase, this dominated many parts of the world including the US. It was also classified as the variant of concern by the CDC, but once the Delta variant started dominating the parts of the world, Alpha faded away.
As per the experts, Alpha’s mutations on the spike protein made it more transmissible than the original coronavirus that was initiated from the Wuhan city of China. However, the Alpha lineage became 30 to 50% more contagious than the original strain of the coronavirus. As per the research by the CDC, before the Delta variant’s first case was found in the US, 66% of the cases were of Alpha variant.
The studies published in various medical journals provide evidence that the B.1.1.7 lineage was not only more contagious, but it was also the one that had more hospitalizations and deaths. However, the vaccines by Pfizer, J&J, and Moderna have been found effective to contain the Alpha variant cases.
Current statistics of Alpha variant: Total number of Alpha variant cases in the US sits at 239,598 as per the report by Statista. For a global tally, click on the link to see how many Alpha variant cases are there in each country.
Symptoms of Covid variants
With so many variants spreading throughout the world, one wonders what are the symptoms of Covid-19 variants. However, there are no differences in the symptoms of the variant. Everyone affected by the coronavirus, regardless of any variant, experiences different symptoms. For a better assessment, consult your medical practitioner. However, if you think that you might be infected with Covid-19, look for these common symptoms as stated by the CDC.
|Common Symptoms of COVID-19||COVID-19 Symptoms in Severe Cases|
|Nausea or vomiting||Pale, gray, or blue-colored skin, lips, or nail beds, depending on skin tone|
|Headache||Persistent pain or pressure in the chest|
|Diarrhea||Inability to wake or stay awake|
|Fever or chills|
|Congestion or runny nose|
|Muscle or body aches|
|New loss of taste or smell|
|Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing|
Symptoms of Delta variant and Omicron variant, Beta variant symptoms, and Alpha variant symptoms are similar. If you have these common symptoms mentioned above then consult a medical practitioner and comply with the guidelines given to you.
How many more coronavirus variants to expect?
According to the Vice-Chair of medicine for data integrity and analytics, Stuart Ray, there might be more variants coming in since it spreads via populations, therefore, the mutations of the virus may continue to evolve and bring out new variants.
“New variants of the SARS-CoV-2 virus are detected every week. Most come and go — some persist but don’t become more common; some increase in the population for a while, and then fizzle out. When a change in the infection pattern first pops up, it can be very hard to tell what’s driving the trend — changes to the virus, or changes in human behavior. It is worrisome that similar changes to the spike protein are arising independently on multiple continents.” Nonetheless, as time goes by and regardless of how many new variants may erupt from different parts of the world, with time we are getting used to the post-pandemic world. However, we must not take the guidelines given by the experts lightly and follow all the protective measures so that we can not only keep ourselves safe but also everyone around us.