The virus that causes COVID-19 is constantly changing, and new variants of the virus are expected to occur. Sometimes new variants emerge and disappear. Other times, new variants persist. Numerous variants of the virus that causes COVID-19 are being tracked in the United States and globally during this pandemic.
What is a COVID-19 variant?
Viruses change all the time. These changes are called “mutations” and the resulting virus is called a “variant”. Such changes in the COVID-19 virus also result in variants.
Sometimes, these may change the virus characteristics. Current widely circulating COVID-19 variants are more easily transmissible and infect people much faster. Studies are underway to understand them better.
What is a variant of interest (VOI)?
WHO considers Variants of Interest (VOI) if the SARS-CoV-2 virus (which causes COVID-19):
- Has mutations that are suspected or known to cause significant changes from its original strain
- Is spreading widely in many places or many countries
What is a variant of concern (VOC)?
A variant of concern (VOC) is a SARS-COV-2 variant which is known to have one or more of the following:
- Spreads more rapidly
- Causes more severe disease
- Change in clinical presentation
- Escapes the body’s immune response
- Decrease effectiveness of known public health measures, diagnostics, treatments or vaccines.
What are the known Variants of Concern (VOC)?
WHO has identified 5 variants of concern?
What is the Delta Variant?
The Delta variant is a variant that can spread faster than other currently known variants. It is now the dominant variant circulating globally.
What are Delta variant symptoms?
People infected with the Delta variant of the COVID-19 virus, show the same symptoms as people infected with other versions of the virus. Therefore, presently, the Delta variant can only be identified through specialized laboratory tests (“genomic sequencing”) and NOT by observing a patient’s symptoms.
Do vaccines work against the Delta variant?
Full vaccination with any of the anti – COVID-19 vaccines that have been granted WHO emergency use listing (EUL), provide substantial protection against the COVID-19 disease, especially severe disease, hospitalization, or death, as long as all the required doses have been taken. This is true for all current variants of concern, including the Delta variant.
Along with vaccination, WHO recommends continuing to wear a mask, avoid crowds, and wash hands regularly with soap and water.
What is the Omicron Variant?
On 26 November 2021, WHO designated the variant B.1.1.529 a variant of concern, named Omicron, on the advice of WHO’s Technical Advisory Group on Virus Evolution (TAG-VE). This decision was based on the evidence presented to the TAG-VE that Omicron has several mutations that may have an impact on how it behaves, for example, on how easily it spreads or the severity of illness it causes.
Current knowledge about Omicron
Researchers in South Africa and around the world are conducting studies to better understand many aspects of Omicron and will continue to share the findings of these studies as they become available.
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Original links to the article: – https://www.who.int/southeastasia/outbreaks-and-emergencies/covid-19/questions/variants-q-a