Scientists have discovered new variants of the virus that causes COVID-19. Here’s what we know so far.
What are COVID-19 variants?
First, know that it’s normal and expected for viruses to mutate (change in form) over time. When this happens, new variants (strains) develop.
With COVID-19, multiple variants have developed globally. They were first found in the United Kingdom, South Africa, and Brazil. Experts believe the mutations will continue to happen.
Unfortunately, the variants seem to spread more easily and quickly. This may lead to more cases of COVID-19.
How widely have these variants spread in the United States?
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is monitoring new cases.
How concerned should I be?
Remember, mutations are a normal part of a virus life cycle. In some cases, new variants emerge but then disappear. Other times, new variants can stay around longer and develop different features.
Public health experts are working hard to answer questions about the COVID-19 variants. For example, do they affect the spread of the virus? Do they cause a more severe disease? We will learn more in time.
What does this mean for the COVID-19 vaccine?
So far, studies suggest that the current vaccines can recognize these variants. But we still don’t know how effective the vaccines are against them. Scientists are also exploring how to add protection through a booster shot or by tweaking the current vaccines.
What can I do to stay safe?
In the meantime, there’s still a lot you can do to protect your health and those around you.
Health experts continue to urge everyone to get vaccinated once they’re eligible. The more people who get vaccinated, the better we can help stop the spread of COVID-19 and its variants. And whether you’re vaccinated or not, it’s important to practice basic safety precautions. Continue to wear a mask, social distance, and wash your hands regularly.
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