Supplementary information about variants of the virus causing COVID-19, by CDC

*The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention urges rigorous and increased compliance with public health mitigation strategies, such as vaccination, physical distancing, use of masks, hand hygiene, and isolation and quarantine is essential to limit the spread of the virus that causes COVID-19

Isola Moses | ConsumerConnect

As the second wave of the novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic continues to blaze across regions and countries around the world, information about the characteristics of these variants is rapidly emerging.

The United States (US) Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) says scientists are working to learn more about how easily they spread, whether they could cause more severe illness, and whether currently authorised vaccines will protect people against them.

According to a post on the agency’s Web site, viruses constantly change through mutation, and new variants of a virus are expected to occur over time.

Sometimes new variants emerge and disappear.

Other times, new variants emerge and persist. Multiple variants of the virus that causes COVID-19 have been documented in the US and globally during this pandemic.

It stated the virus that causes COVID-19 is a type of Coronavirus, a large family of viruses.

Coronaviruses are named for the crown-like spikes on their surfaces. Scientists monitor changes in the virus, including changes to the spikes on the surface of the virus, stated the CDC.

The regulatory agency noted these studies, including genetic analyses of the virus, are helping scientists to understand how changes to the virus might affect how it spreads and what happens to people who are infected with it.

Multiple variants of the virus that causes COVID-19 are circulating globally:

The United Kingdom (UK) identified a variant called B.1.1.7 with a large number of mutations in the fall of 2020.

This variant, according to CDC, spreads more easily and quickly than other variants.

In January 2021, experts in the UK reported that this variant might be associated with an increased risk of death compared to other variant viruses, but more studies are needed to confirm this finding.

It has since been detected in many countries around the world. This variant was first detected in the US at the end of December 2020.

In South Africa, another variant called B.1.351 emerged independently of B.1.1.7. Originally detected in early October 2020, B.1.351 shares some mutations with B.1.1.7. Cases caused by this variant have been reported in the US at the end of January 2021.

Whereas in Brazil, a variant called P.1 emerged that was first identified in travelers from Brazil, who were tested during routine screening at an airport in Japan, in early January.

This variant contains a set of additional mutations that may affect its ability to be recognised by antibodies. This variant was first detected in the US at the end of January 2021.

These variants seem to spread more easily and quickly than other variants, which may lead to more cases of COVID-19, it said.

An increase in the number of cases will put more strain on health care resources, lead to more hospitalisations, and potentially more deaths.

So far, studies suggest that antibodies generated through vaccination with currently authorised vaccines recognise these variants. This is being closely investigated and more studies are underway.

Rigorous and increased compliance with public health mitigation strategies, such as vaccination, physical distancing, use of masks, hand hygiene, and isolation and quarantine, is essential to limit the spread of the virus that causes COVID-19 and protect public health.

However, the CDC has equally highlighted what it is yet to know about the virus that causes COVID-19.

It stated that scientists are working to learn more about these variants, and more studies are needed to understand:

How widely these new variants have spread

How the disease caused by these new variants differs from the disease caused by other variants that are currently circulating

How these variants may affect existing therapies, vaccines, and tests

In connection with what this means, the agency said:

Public health officials are studying these variants quickly to learn more to control their spread.

They want to understand whether the variants:

Spread more easily from person-to-person

Cause milder or more severe disease in people

Are detected by currently available viral tests

Respond to medicines currently being used to treat people for COVID-19

Change the effectiveness of COVID-19 vaccines

What CDC is doing currently:

CDC, in collaboration with other public health agencies, is monitoring the situation closely.

It is working to monitor the spread of identified variants, characterise emerging viral variants, and expand its ability to find new SARS-CoV-2 variants.

CDC is collaborating with EPA to confirm that disinfectants on EPA’s List N: Disinfectants for Coronavirus (COVID-19external icon) inactivate these variant viruses. As new information becomes available, CDC will provide updates.

In a related development, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, in a report, said it found some nursing home residents experienced ‘more severe’ symptoms the second time they got COVID-19.

In the report, id it found that some elderly people who had recovered from COVID-19 later became re-infected with an even worse case of the virus.

The CDC said it studied two separate outbreaks that occurred three months apart at a nursing facility in Kentucky.

Over the summer, 20 residents and five staff members contracted COVID-19. Then between October and December, 85 residents and 43 health-care personnel tested positive for the virus.

Five of those residents tested positive for COVID-19 in both the first and second outbreak. The reinfection occurred more than 90 days after their first positive test.

Alyson Cavanaugh, one of the researchers who led the study, stated: “The exposure history, including the timing of roommates’ infections and the new onset of symptoms during the second outbreak, suggest that the second positive RT-PCR results represented new infections after the patients apparently cleared the first infection.”

In relation to how immune response could play a role in this regard, health officials said several residents who came down with the virus a second time experienced more severe symptoms.

The CDC wrote: “Although three of the five patients with recurrent COVID-19 were asymptomatic during their first infectious episode, all five experienced symptoms during their second infectious episode.

The two patients who were symptomatic during the first outbreak experienced more severe symptoms during the second infectious episode compared with the symptoms they had during the first outbreak.

“One resident patient required hospitalisation and subsequently died.”

The researchers said the study suggests that it’s possible for people with symptoms that are either mild or nonexistent to the first time they get COVID-19 to later get a worse case of the virus because they “do not produce a sufficiently robust immune response to prevent reinfection.”

According to the researchers, the study results, therefore, “suggest the possibility that disease can be more severe during a second infection,” said the CDC.

Cavanaugh also wrote: “The findings of this study highlight the importance of maintaining public health mitigation and protection strategies that reduce transmission risk, even among persons with a history of COVID-19 infection.”

Throughout the pandemic, nursing home residents have been particularly vulnerable to catching the virus due to the fact that they live in close proximity to others.

The study authors said nursing facilities should continue to use strategies to reduce the spread of the virus, “including among those who have previously had a COVID-19 diagnosis.”

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