For over a year now the world has been facing an unprecedented threat from Covid-19. With a robust vaccination program covering at least 60% of the population, it was thought that countries across the world would achieve herd immunity against the virus and the infection rates would subside eventually. But that was not to be! Many countries in the world witnessed multiple outbreaks and waves of the pandemic. Now, this might make us wonder why but a key report from the World Health Organisation (WHO) might hold the answer to this question.
COVID-19 is not just any kind of virus. It has a unique ability to mutate with time which explains why the various virus samples being tested across locations have revealed the presence of multiple strains. Research suggests that some strains are more potent than others due to their characteristics. You could compare strains more or less to versions of the same virus with some changes in properties.
What is the B.1.617 strain of COVID-19?
The B.1.617 is a double mutant variant of the COVID-19 virus and it is among the top four strains to be designated as being of “global concern” by the WHO. Being originally detected in India, the scientists believe that the COVID-19 virus might have mutated within the country to form the B.1.617 strain.
How are new strains detected?
New strains of the virus can be detected by a process called genome sequencing. This is done periodically by taking samples of the virus from different locations. COVID-19 is a virus that seems to have a very high tendency to mutate. This explains the presence of multiple strains across the world. Some strains like the B.1.617 are more potent than others and hence emerge as a concern.
Does vaccination help?
Many vaccine manufacturers and independent agencies have claimed that vaccines are somewhat effective against the new strains of the virus. A complete vaccination drive throughout the country seems to be the best tactic that we have at containing this deadly virus. But until we have the capacity to do so, following social distancing along with personal and home hygiene protocols seem to be the only options on the table.
What makes the B.1.617 strain of COVID-19 different?
The B.1.617 strain is a double mutant variant of the original COVID-19 virus, meaning two mutations in the parent strain have led to the current variant. The main point of concern with the new variant is its ability to spread rapidly. Studies have shown that the variant has been able to spread much faster than the parent strain. This has led the variant to be labelled as concerning.
What can you do?
The protocols to be followed for the new variant are much the same as those for the parent strain. You will have to maintain social distancing. Keep yourself well sanitised and disinfected. Personal and home hygiene must be maintained at all times. On the rare occasions that you do step outside, proper use of a double mask is highly recommended as it can greatly reduce the spread of the virus. Also, make sure that each and every member of your family follows the covid guidelines strictly without fail.
Here is a detailed explanation on why we need vaccines.
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