The mutation of COVID-19 was to be expected, as eventually all viruses mutate. The influenza virus is a good example, as it is necessary to be vaccinated yearly since the virus changes to adapt to the immunity obtained from the vaccines.
According to The New York Times, officials in Britain were the first to confirm a variant of COVID-19 being present within their region. The Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, initiated a serious lockdown ever since March and, recently, many European countries have been closing their borders to contain the spread of this new variant. The British COVID-19 variant alone has around 20 distinct mutations. According to an infectious diseases expert and scientific advisor of the British government, Muge Cevik, these variants impact the virus’s ability to lock on and infect cells and cause the variant to spread faster.
However, as interchangeable as the two words may seem, “variant” and “mutation” hold slightly different definitions. A variant is a form of something, in this case a virus, and is different in some aspects even though it is still similar to the original in some ways. A mutation is an alteration in a nucleotide sequence, in this case, for the coronavirus. The nucleotide sequence is what makes the virus. But what’s the difference between a variant and a mutation? CTV News states, “variant is the correct term to use when classifying a known virus that has developed a ‘specific group of mutations’ that causes the variant to behave differently than that of the strain it originated from.” In this case, the strain would be the original COVID-19 which ignited the pandemic in the beginning of 2020.
26 countries in total are being affected by the variant. Within the United States, the variant has already been identified in Colorado, Florida, New York, California, and many other states nationwide. This same variant is said to be related to the variant in the United Kingdom, although the man who caught it does not have any travel history, according to Governor Jared Polis.
COVID-19 vaccines are being distributed across the globe. The first two companies to gain the vaccines, Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna, are making sure that the vaccines can be used to fight against the variant. Many US scientists believe that the vaccines will work against the new variant although there’s a possibility that it won’t be as effective towards the variant to a small degree.
With the variant spreading across the United States and the rest of the world, it is more important than ever to wear a mask when going out, reduce traveling to a minimum, and get vaccinated.