With the new Delta variant of the coronavirus discovered in India, it seems like the worldwide pandemic is just continuing to get more complicated. If COVID-19 had just remained a single virus with no mutations, conquering the virus and overcoming the pandemic would have been a much simpler process. Instead, we are left scrambling to figure out how best to defend ourselves from an unknown form of the disease.
The Current Situation
Unfortunately, multiple variants of the original virus have developed and have convoluted the entire situation of the pandemic. This has left everyone confused and uneasy about the overall state of the world in respect to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The CDC classifies each variant of the virus as a variant of interest (VOI), variant of concern (VOC), and variant of high consequence (VOHC). For each classification level for the variants, the features of lower classifications could still be included in the higher ones. Luckily there have not been any identified variants that are classified at the level of VOHC.
So far, there have been four significant variants of concern identified in the United States. Along with the Alpha, Beta, and Gamma variants, the CDC also labeled Delta as a variant of concern. Variants of concern feature greater transmissibility and severity.
Currently, in the United States, the Delta variant is the most dominant variant of the virus. Recent reports state that Delta now accounts for almost 52% of the coronavirus cases in the country. States with low vaccination rates are especially at risk.
Formation of Virus Variants
Viruses are diseases to be wary of because they constantly change and form mutations and undergo genetic changes through these mutations.
Through monitoring the changes that the virus goes through, scientists can determine when mutations have been created. When they notice these changes, they can observe the variant and perform tests to determine the new mutation’s attributes.
Formation of the virus variants can rapidly occur, causing widespread infection before scientists and the CDC know what features the variant has and how to best protect against it.
How Vaccines Work
Instead of treating or curing an infection, vaccines are created to prevent people from infection of a deadly disease. They do this by injecting a small number of germs from the disease into your body. The body’s immune system then takes action as if the complete disease were present and produces antibodies.
Herd immunity is the goal that vaccines are trying to achieve. Also known as community immunity, herd immunity aims to protect the larger community from disease. Vaccines are never 100% effective, so vaccinating the vast majority of a population helps ensure that a disease doesn’t quickly spread throughout a community.
Variants of a virus make it difficult to effectively protect ourselves through vaccination because a vaccine may or may not protect against a new mutation of the virus. If vaccines can’t promise complete protection, how can we effectively arm ourselves against infection of a new variant?
The Effectiveness of Masks
Because scientists are discovering new information about the coronavirus and its variants almost daily, it is crucial to follow the counsel provided by the CDC on what to do to protect you and your loved ones.
When worn correctly, masks have been proven to be highly effective at protecting against the transmission of the virus. An even better option would be to wear a mask and social distance, as this increases your protection and reduces susceptibility to contracting any variant of the virus.
The widespread effects of the Delta variant of the virus have yet to be discovered but you can do your part to prevent the spread and protect yourself by spreading awareness about the importance of wearing a mask.