What Do We Know About Coronavirus Variants?
‘Viruses constantly change through mutation, and new variants of a virus occur over time. Sometimes new variants emerge and disappear. Other times, new variants emerge and start infecting people,’ said the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
‘Multiple variants of the virus that causes COVID-19 have been documented in the USA, Canada, and globally during this pandemic,’ commented the CDC on December 29, 2020.
The SARS-CoV-2 virus that causes COVID-19 is a type of betacoronavirus, similar to MERS-CoV and SARS-CoV, from a large family of about 100 viruses.
Coronaviruses are named for the crown-like spikes on their surfaces. Scientists are monitoring changes in this coronavirus, including modifications to the spikes on the virus’s surface.
On October 28, 2020, a non-peer-reviewed study reported a variant of the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus that emerged in early summer 2020 has since spread to multiple European countries. This variant, known as A222V, was first observed in Spain and has been reported to have a transmission frequency above 40 percent.
In the United Kingdom (UK), a new virus variant emerged with many mutations. This variant was first detected in September 2020 and is now highly prevalent in London and southeast England.
This variant, classified as ‘SARS-CoV-2 VUI 202012/01” or “B.1.1.7.’, is reported to spread more easily and quickly than other variants. Currently, there is no evidence that it causes more severe illness or increased risk of death, says the CDC.
Currently, the UK’s second variant Technical Briefing indicates ‘there is no evidence that this variant causes more severe illness or increased risk of death.’
And in Germany, the Medical University of Hanover determined the virus variant B1.1.7 retrospectively in a case of infection from November 2020, the German Ministry of Health announced. The reference laboratory of the Berlin Charité confirmed the result, reported Welt.de on December 28, 2020.
Furthermore, in the USA, Colorado’s Governor Jared Polis announced on December 29, 2020, the first case of variant B.1.1.7 was confirmed in Elbert County, located southeast of Denver.
And the California Department of Public Health reported a person infected with the coronavirus variant on December 29th had no known travel history. California Health and Human Services Secretary Mark Ghaly stated ‘this development is concerning.’
Separately, the CDC said, ‘in collaboration with other public health agencies, is monitoring the situation closely. And is working to detect and characterize emerging viral variants and expand its ability to look for COVID-19 and new variants.’
‘Furthermore, the CDC has staff available on-the-ground support to investigate the characteristics of viral variants. As new information becomes available, the CDC will provide updates,’ concluded this update published on December 29, 2020.
To reduce the variant’s spreading, CDC issued an Order requiring proof of a negative COVID-19 test for all air passengers arriving from the UK to the USA, beginning December 28, 2020.
As of December 31st, the CDC has not extended this Order to other countries or the USA. But, clinicians should obtain a detailed travel history for patients with symptoms of COVID-19 infection. If you suspect that a traveler has COVID-19, see Information for Healthcare Professionals about Coronavirus for evaluating, reporting, clinical care guidance, and infection control.
Update: U.S. CDC Call Transcript on December 30, 2020.
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