The covid-19 crisis is not over yet. The world as a whole is nowhere near to achieving herd immunity. People should continue wearing masks and practice social distancing to protect themselves from the deadly virus. Prevention is better than cure.
The third wave of the coronavirus has accelerated a far more dangerous situation all over the world.
The coronavirus has evolved as a new strain due to mutation in the virus’s genes. Coronavirus is an RNA virus and RNA viruses generally tend to mutate; it is their nature. For example, the influenza virus/ flu virus mutates every year. This is why you need a new vaccine for the flu virus every year.
The strain of coronavirus first discovered in China has now mutated into multiple variants.
- The variant, B.1.1.7, emerged in the United Kingdom in September 2020. Now it is the most common and the predominant variant in most countries across the globe. It has a greater ability of transmission and causes more severe disease.
- Another variant, B.1.351, initially appeared in South Africa which could reinfect the population already recovered from the previous strain of coronavirus. This strain is somewhat resistant to the vaccine.
- Another variant emerged in Brazil which was first detected in four travellers at the Haneda airport in Tokyo, Japan. This variant has 17 mutations.
Why did the virus mutate?
The virus has infected about 127 million people around the globe. Once the virus infects a different population, it begins to mutate. The variants might have emerged in a person with a weak immune system who was unable to fight the virus. Instead, the body of the person became a ground for the virus to mutate.
The B.1.1.7 variant of England is more contagious, i.e., it spreads more quickly. The reason for it being more contagious is that the B.1.1.7 variant has mutated spike proteins that attach to the human cells in the nose and lungs more effectively and more tightly. Studies have still not revealed that whether this variant is more easily transmitted or not.
Thus, the variant spreads faster from person to person, affecting a greater number of the population. More people get sick and the death toll increases. There is also evidences that this variant causes more severe disease.
So the third wave of the coronavirus is deadlier in the sense that the infection is spreading more rapidly and the number of deaths has reached a significant value.
What are the symptoms of the new Covid strain?
As compared to the symptoms caused by the original covid-19 strain, cough, muscle pains, and fatigue are more likely to occur and persist for a longer time. Whereas, loss of sense of taste and smell is less likely to develop.
Does the vaccine play a part in developing immunity against the mutated strains?
Vaccines target the spike proteins of the virus. Pieces of evidence are not very strong that the vaccine is effective against the mutated form of the virus. The immune response of the body has several elements and a decrease in one element does not confer to the fact that vaccines won’t offer protection against the infection.
- Moderna vaccine is expected to work against all the variants. They are developing a booster shot to target the B.1.351 variant.
- Pfizer vaccine is relatively less effective against the variants.
The mRNA vaccines offer immunity for up to 8 months by producing antibodies. So typically a booster shot is not required because these vaccines offer a long-term immunity to the population.
Can the mutated strains be detected by the currently available diagnostic tests?
Yes, the mutated variants can be detected by the currently available viral tests. The variants respond to the medications currently being used to treat the virus.
Does the new variant affect children?
Studies have found that the new variant affects children more frequently. Whereas the previous variant discovered in China in December 2019 did not affect children more often; only a few cases were reported. We can only assume at this point.
Yes, more mutations in the coronavirus will continue to happen as long as the virus spreads in the population. Several variants emerge every week but only a few dominate and become more common; others don’t.
Mutations in the virus cause increased survival of the particle and make it more deadly.
What can stop the spread of the virus?
Herd immunity is not a reasonable factor that can play a role in stopping the spread of the virus. However, wearing masks and practicing social distancing can certainly lower the potency of the deadly virus.
It was found that in winters people remained mostly outdoors which restrained the spread of the virus as open areas help a great deal in controlling the spread. Remaining indoors concentrated the virus particles in the air and posed a greater risk for spreading of infection.
Why is it important to keep following SOPs during this third wave as well?
We need to continue doing what we are doing and keep following the SOPs to limit the spread of the virus. As more people are infected, the chances of mutations increase.
We need to continue doing all the efforts to limit spread such as wearing masks, practicing social distancing, and maintaining hand hygiene. And we need to vaccinate as many people as possible to break the chain and limit the spread.