The SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus causing the Covid-19 pandemic is what’s known as an RNA(ribonucleic acid) virus. RNA viruses are highly mutagenic compared to DNA viruses meaning they mutate, adapt, and evolve fairly quickly. Familiar RNA viruses include the common cold and influenza. Some have been mostly controlled through vaccinations such as rabies, polio, and measles.
Multiple variants of the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus are currently circulating globally:
The UK variant, known as B.1.1.7
The South African variant, known as B.1.351
The Brazil variant, known as P.1
What we know: These variants seem to spread more easily and quickly than other variants, which may lead to more cases of COVID-19. An increase in the number of cases will put more strain on health care resources, lead to more hospitalizations, and potentially more deaths.
What we don’t know: How wide spread the variants are and how the variants may affect existing therapies, vaccines, and tests.
What we can do: Continue basic public health measures, including masking, physical distancing, good ventilation indoors and limiting gatherings of people in close proximity with poor ventilation. We need to give the virus less opportunities to mutate.
CDC: New Variants of the Virus that Causes Covid-19
Johns Hopkins Medicine: New Variants of Coronavirus