New COVID-19 variants reported around the world


Courtesy of Briskr

COVID-19 variants have been documented across the world

New variants of COVID-19 have been documented across the globe and in the United States, leading scientists and public health officials to encourage new mask precautions as studies on the virus continue to progress.

Three separate strains of the virus have been found in the United Kingdom, South Africa and Brazil. The first cases of these variants found in the U.S. were reported in the end of December and January. 

According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, the new variants “seem to spread more easily and quickly than other variants, which may lead to more cases of COVID-19.” 

The variant found in the U.K., referred to as B.1.1.7, accounted for approximately 60% of cases in December. B.1.1.7 is the most contagious strain compared to other variants of COVID-19, and has already been reported in a majority of states.

The U.K. variant was reported in Boston in January, but experts said it was likely circulating throughout the population long before that, NBC reported.

The variant first reported in South Africa, referred to as B.1.351, shares some of the same mutations as B.1.1.7 despite having developed separately, Today reported. The Brazilian variant, known as P.1, has raised concerns among scientists about transmissibility and the possibility of reinfection.

The CDC reported that studies thus far have shown the vaccine to be effective against these variants, but that it is still being closely investigated. Scientists largely do not know how these new strains react to treatment and vaccines or how wide they have spread.

As the U.S. continues to battle the pandemic, new precautions have become more popular. The CDC has recently urged Americans to begin “double-masking” to make it even harder for the virus to spread.

This new technique of mask-wearing requires layering a multilayered cloth mask over a disposable mask. Alternatively, the CDC also recommends a mask brace over a disposable or cloth mask. Both of these new strategies allow the mask to fit better on the face, ensuring more protection.

Other measures, including social distancing and increased hand-washing, are also encouraged as more is being learned about the new variants.

Pfizer and Moderna have both announced that they are actively working on developing upgrades to their current vaccines that may be more effective against the South Africa strain.

President Joe Biden announced on Feb. 11 that his administration signed deals with Pfizer and Moderna, securing 200 million more vaccine doses for Americans, CNBC reported. Despite the uncertainty surrounding the new COVID-19 variants, public health officials are still encouraging individuals to get vaccinated as soon as they are able to.