James Hock - MRH Faculty
Growing Concern as New Covid Variants Arise and Cases Surge: Do They Pose a Significant Threat?
By Mason Z.
If you heard anything in the news recently you might have heard about new covid variants: Delta, Omicron, or even new concerning mutations like Deltacron. The pandemic is far from over because of these variants and likely other variants after. But how concerning are the new variants? And do they pose a significant threat to the pandemic as a whole?
It is a fact that as long as covid-cases continue to rise and people stay unvaccinated, mutations and variants will emerge. The Covid-19 virus, especially variants, is still relatively a mystery. In the United States, 85% of adults have received at least one dose while 15% haven’t been vaccinated at all. With numerous variants being identified, some more harmful than others, the pandemic won’t stop or get any better if people don’t get vaccinated.
Dr. Bruce Aylward, senior WHO (World Health Organization) official states we are likely seeing the consequences of new variants because people aren’t getting vaccinated. The virus is only mutating because there is a large number of people who aren’t fully vaccinated. The vaccine significantly reduces the chance of getting covid by increasing the antibodies in our immune system. Maria Van Kerkhove, Covid-19’s technical lead still says mask-wearing and social distancing are preventive measures but hopes the government enforces these regulations further, “don’t abandon the strategies that are working.” Delta and Omicron are two of the most concerning variants out there with their spread being a direct result of the recent spike in covid cases.
The Delta variant was one of the first variants to be detected. Delta was first identified in India in late 2020 and by November of 2021, it spread to over 179 countries. The variant is one of the most contagious respiratory viruses out there- far more than Covid-19. The most common people affected are those who are unvaccinated. People who are vaccinated, though, do contract the virus (but it is rare). Experts at UCDavis Health say that in many communities the harmful damages Delta has done could be felt for decades to come.
However, The Omicron variant works a bit differently. It can affect both unvaccinated and vaccinated people and is more transmissible than Covid-19. The current vaccines are said to be effective against Omicron but breakthrough cases do still occur. An independent (unverified) study by South African scientists shows that after contracting the Omicron variant the immune system is much stronger against other variants like Delta. But as with Delta, scientists are uncertain about the variant’s full effects and transmissibility because of how new it is. Omicron was first reported in South Africa in November of 2021 and in December the first confirmed case of the variant was found in the United States. Omicron has now been detected in most states and territories and has made its way around the world.
As new variants emerge, the World Health Organization is constantly keeping an eye out for all possible variants- most aren’t even mentioned to the public. If a threat is a level of concern it will be marked as a variant of concern, while others will continue to be under investigation. Variants like the recently publicized I.H.U variant have been around since November 2021 and had many opportunities to pick up but according to the New York Times never “materialized.” Delta and Omicron aren’t going to be the last dangerous and contagious variants, officials are sure of that, and it is crucial now more than ever that you keep your friends, family, and the people you love safe by getting vaccinated.
Omicron infection appears to protect against Covid delta variant and could
displace it, South Africa study finds. www.cnbc.com/2021/12/28/
A variant found in France is not a concern, the W.H.O. says. www.nytimes.com/
Delta variant: 8 things you should know about this COVID-19 strain.