COVID Ain’t Over Yet: New Variants Keep Emerging

by HFC Staff

In 2020, the world halted when the pandemic hit caused by COVID-19, an infectious illness of the SARS-CoV-2 virus.

With almost two years of various degrees of lockdown, quarantine and extreme safety protocols, and the discovery of the COVID vaccine, the world has been slowly opening itself to get everyone safely back to normal and enjoying life as we know it pre-pandemic.

However, the COVID pandemic is not over yet. New variants have emerged from the original COVID virus.

According to Yale Medicine, new variants emerging are a part of the virus evolution. It’s important for the scientific community to monitor these variants to ensure that the world is prepared when a new variant is more severe than the original strain of the virus.

When we talk of variants, it’s helpful to visualize them as branches in a tree as they sprout from the main trunk and into several branches. Since the outbreak, we have learned of numerous COVID-19 variants such as Alpha, Beta, Delta and especially, Omicron.

There have been several strains or subvariants that emerged from Omicron such as BA.5, BQ.1 and BQ.1.1, according to Yale Medicine. Just recently, XBB.1.5 emerged in January of this year. By April, another Omicron subvariant, XBB.1.16, was announced to be a “variant of interest” by the World Health Organization. In social media, the subvariant is called “Arcturus.”

First detected in India, Arcturus is now in the U.S. with a steady rise in cases with less than 10% of new confirmed COVID cases as of April 22, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

According to experts, the subvariant is spreading fast because it avoids immune detection in the body. However, it is not yet confirmed if this will lead to severe cases.

In a Washington Post interview, Paul Hunter, a professor of medicine at the University of East Anglia in Britain said: “We’ve seen this in the past. You look at the virus and it’s got mutations that should make it more virulent, but then in reality, you don’t see that.”

“It will probably become the dominant variant for a while in the US and Europe and more countries around the world, but I don’t see it driving up severe infections more than we’ve seen in recent waves,” he added.

Despite the low chances of COVID waves, it is still important to follow safety protocols and keep updated with the COVID vaccination.

Keep your distance. In the early days of the lockdown, the six-feet-apart rule was strictly implemented by the government. Even though this rule is now lifted or less imposed, it is still a great practice to maintain a distance from others.

Wear a mask. If social distancing is not possible, don’t hesitate to wear a mask. Masks should be properly fitted and cover your nose, mouth and chin.

Step outside or open a window. Ventilation is key to lessen the spread of the virus. Keep air flowing to ensure spaces are well-ventilated. If indoors, open windows. If outdoors, make sure to get out of the crowd to keep yourself well-ventilated.

Wash hands with soap and water. Ensure that you are washing and massaging every corner of your hands to keep them clean and sanitized to prevent the spread and transmission of the virus.

Use alcohol or hand sanitizer. When handwashing is not possible, regularly sanitize your hand when you’re out and about. Moreover, you can also use your handy-dandy alcohol spray to sanitize areas you will be spending time on. For example, you can spray the table and chairs before dining at a food court.

Stay at home if you feel unwell. If you are feeling sick, stay at home, isolate, and monitor yourself until you recover. If you suspect you are experiencing COVID symptoms, contact your doctor for a telehealth check-up.

Get vaccinated. When a vaccine is available to you, get the vaccine shot. After receiving the initial COVID vaccine, booster shots are available for added protection and immunization.

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