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  • Shlok Chakravarthy

The Variants of the SARS-CoV-2 Virus

The last 1.5 years have been quite a ride for all of the world. We've faced challenges we never imagined and our lives have changed so drastically that we are still trying to understand what is happening. All of us have been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic in one way or another, and in these 1.5 years, there have been numerous variants of this virus.

We know that viruses constantly change through mutation, and new variants of a virus are expected to occur. Some variants emerge and disappear. Other times, variants persist, constantly change and become more diverse. Scientists monitor these minute changes that take place in the virus. With careful study, scientists can learn how the changes to the virus might affect the way it spreads.

Think about a virus like a tree growing and branching out. All branches are similar but minutely different. By comparing the branches, scientists can label them according to the differences. These small differences, or variants, have been studied and identified since the beginning of the pandemic.

Some variations allow the virus to spread more easily and may be resistant to treatments and vaccines. Those variants must be monitored more carefully. Currently, there are 4 notable variants.

B.1.1.7 (Alpha): This variant was initially detected in the United Kingdom.

B.1.351 (Beta): This variant was initially detected in South Africa in December 2020.

P.1 (Gamma): P.1 was initially identified in travellers from Brazil, who were tested during routine screening at an airport in Japan, in January 2021.

B.1.617.2 (Delta): It was initially identified in India in December 2020.

Spreading more easily and quickly than other variants, these variations may lead to more cases of COVID-19. Studies suggest that the currently authorized vaccines work on the circulating variants. Scientists will continue to study these and other variants.

It is common knowledge by now to stay at home and wear a mask every time we go out. Follow all government rules and keep yourself updated. In this time of crisis, we should support others and take care of ourselves as well.

Variants of the virus

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