SARS CoV-2 Variants: What to Know
January 21, 2022
The past few months have seemed to be a roller coaster of news for the COVID-19 pandemic. With restrictions being taken down, vaccines being developed, and the onset of a potential second wave of sorts before us as families come back from the holidays. However, one development has confused and scared the public the most; that being the new variants of COVID-19, particularly the delta and omicron varieties. These variants have picked up quite the attention as each seems to be more deadly in different ways with the public not having a complete grasp on what, how, and why these variants exist.
What is a Variant?
To those who have been taught genetic evolution and natural selection, variants within COVID-19 should not be surprising. Genetic evolution proves that select mutations that prove to be promising within an organism, or in this case a virus, will be “selected” by means of natural selection which supposes that organisms with promising mutations will survive and reproduce more than those without leading to the following generation having these mutated traits which are occurring within the COVID-19 strain of SARS. But how do these strains occur so fast if natural selection is meant to span generations? Well, viruses are far different than any normal living organism. Viruses can have multiple generations in the span of weeks with every new host producing a new generation of viruses. This speeds up the natural selection process and is how the Flu or cold keeps coming back every year. However, in this case, COVID-19 has infected so many people very fast leading to the rapid production of new successful variants such as delta and omicron.
Which Variants Are The Most Dangerous?
The three main variants (SARS CoV-2, delta, and omicron) are mostly the same apart from very specific differences. Base COVID-19 (SARS CoV-2) has much of the same symptoms as its other variants such as coughing, loss of taste/smell, shortness of breath, fatigue, aches and pains, headache, sore throat, congestion, nausea and vomiting, and diarrhea with late stages being categorized by trouble breathing, persistent pain in the chest area, confusion, inability to wake or stand and pale or gray looking skin. All these symptoms can be attributed to the variants; however, the differences arise when you look at the spreading and severity of these symptoms. For instance, delta has a lower spreading rate than base COVID-19, however, the severity of symptoms such as coughing and chest pressure are far more severe with delta and is more likely to lead to death than its counterpart. As for omicron, this variant spreads rapidly, far faster than delta and base COVID-19. However, the virus is more cold-like therefore symptoms such as coughing and congestion are far more severe than late-stage symptoms making omicron more in line with the common cold than an extreme human killer. However, it should be noted that data on omicron is low as this variant is relatively new. In the end, the delta variant is the most dangerous on paper, however, each should be taken equally seriously as not much is known about all of them.
What is the Best Way to Mitigate Your Chance of Getting These Variants or COVID-19?
What is the Future of COVID-19 and the Pandemic With These Variants?
For the last two years, many people have had a more than grim outlook on the pandemic. With these new variants, many are concerned that the pandemic will never end and that COVID-19 will just keep evolving to the point where we can’t stop it anymore. However, the finding of the omicron variant proves that things will get better before it gets worse. With the omicron variant, we are seeing cold-like genetics which means that COVID-19 is likely to evolve into a cold-like virus with a few flu-like aspects. This is promising as if natural selection works the way it should, the omicron strain will spread and produce more generations of the virus than any other variant which will make future generations of COVID-19 more like omicron and more like a cold. This could lead to COVID-19 becoming far less dangerous than it is now making it more like the flu than a killer, world-ending virus. However, this will take time and for now, the best thing we can do is listen to researchers and scientists as we figure out this virus. For now, the best thing we can do is get vaccinated, boosted, and just do our best to wear masks and social distance. One day we will get back to normal but only if we do our part to ensure it.