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There are actually hundreds of types of coronaviruses; all of which are categorized into different groups. In this week’s “viral thoughts” staff reporter Hailie Hughes discusses the various mutants found of the COVID-19 virus.

COVID-19 variants

Even before the world-wide pandemic hit, the coronavirus was already a thing. There are actually hundreds of types of coronaviruses; all of which are categorized into different groups. Most coronaviruses are only found in animals, however there are seven that are known to affect humans. One of these being SARS-CoV-2, which is what causes COVID-19.

SARS-CoV-2 stands for severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2. It’s one of the three of the seven coronaviruses that affect humans that cause serious illness. It causes the COVID-19 that we all know and love, and like many other viruses, it changes and grows. 

In the UK, a COVID-19 variant called B.1.1.7 has popped up with a large number of mutations, most notably being that it transmits faster and easier. It was first detected september 2020, and is now extremely common and spread in London, and southeast England.

In South Africa, a variant called 1.351 was found; independant from the one in the UK. While it shares some mutations, it’s also a lot more dangerous. It’s more commonly found in young people with no underlying health issues, and is 50% more contagious. There have yet to be any detected cases in the US. 

In Brazil, another variant named P.1 emerged. P.1 is not only more infectious, but it may also evade protective antibodies from previous infections; thus making it easier to catch and harder to get rid of. There have yet to be any detected cases in the US.

Something all these new strands of COVID-19 have in common is that they have a spike in protein mutation. This means that the mutations spike proteins bind easier with human cells, thus why it is more infectious. 

These mutations make the virus even harder to fight than it already is. The best thing we can do now in hopes of ending this pandemic is to continue to follow CDC guidelines. Just because it’s a new year, doesn’t mean that it’ll all magically all go away. We need to continue fighting and working to end this.

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