Viruses have a tendency to branch off into new variants or strains. COVID-19 has been presented through many new variants, each becoming more contagious than the other. There have been many variants of COVID: Delta, Omicron, Alpha, Gamma, Beta, Mu, etc. Variants are highly transmissible and more fatal than the original.
The new variant, B.1.1.529, or Omicron, as we know it, is now the dominant strain in the United States. Omicron was first discovered in South Africa and Botswana. Omicron causes more side-effects and after-effects, being less responsive to vaccines. Therefore, breakthrough infections are even more likely if you have Omicron, regardless of your vaccination status. Omicron has been seen as a highly transmissible disease, even more transmissible than Delta. Though there is still much to learn about Omicron, it is definitely a “variant of concern”.
Delta, B.1.617.2, is yet another variant, first spotted December 2020 in India, before Omicron. Delta spread to 178 countries, in a matter of months, therefore, shown to be 50% more transmissible than other COVID-19 variants. Like Omicron, this variant is definitely more dangerous than the original strain of the coronavirus. Studies from the CDC stress that unvaccinated individuals are most likely to be hospitalized, as this is a more infectious strand of the virus.
Not only is it Delta and Omicron, there are also other variants: Alpha (B.1.1.7), Gamma (P.1), Beta (B.1.351), Mu (B.1.621). Alpha was first discovered in southeastern England, seen as 70% more transmissible, more transmissible than Delta. Gamma was first discovered in people from Brazil who traveled to Japan. Beta was first discovered in South Africa, 50% more transmissible than the original. Mu was first discovered in Columbia, reaching its peak in June of 2021.
Students from Newfield High School were asked about how they feel about these new strains of the variant. Here is what they said:
“COVID has been around for a long time now, and more and more variants are showing up. The variants are coming up each day, a lot of them are found in other countries but they somehow appear in the US.”
“Variants are spreading around really quickly, there are more variants popping up quickly. I think Omicron is the most popular variant.”
Delta and Omicron are seen as the most popularized strains of the virus, though there are others to watch out for. Variants are seen as more transmissible, more dangerous, and sometimes vaccine-resistant. In spite of all this, it is important to keep safe, wash your hands, wear a mask, and get vaccinated to protect yourself and others from this deadly disease.