“New variant is likely to catch on rapidly and become the predominant form in the United States by March,” a biologist, Trevor Bedford, at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, told the New York Times.
With the recently discovered COVID-19 variant strain B.1.1.7 starting to roll into countries other than the United Kingdom, according to The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, many have grown curious of the variant’s capability to wreak havoc upon the world. Especially because the appearance of the variant coincided with two powerful updates — fresh and optimistic vaccine distributions and the daunting news of a drop in intensive care unit availability — anxiety was prevalent in most people.
Although a fair amount of researches have substantiated well-known claims that B.1.1.7 does not cause more harm than the original COVID-19 virus and that the vaccines will remain effective, more data are showing that the variant does not deserve to be dealt with an apathy, according to The Atlantic.
The destructive potentials of the variant are veiled under the bombardment of boasting evidence that claims the variant is something so manageable with current prevention methods and is the normal, expected result of the virus trying to make itself flourish.
However, these claims are likely to function as factors that will exacerbate the explosion injuries once the neglected dynamite (the variant) violently explodes from the pile of soils that used to hide its capabilities.
The variant that first appeared in the United Kingdom in September 2020, which recently got its name “B.1.1.7,” was not the first time that the mutated strain of COVID-19 emerged, according to the New York Times.
However, the recently discovered B.1.1.7 has proven itself to be the most transmissible form than any other variants, according to the New York Times. The new variant already accounts for more than 60% of cases in London and surrounding areas.
Through the series of observations in those particular areas, experts have cautiously estimated that there was roughly a 50-70 percent increase in transmissibility, according to The Atlantic. Based on this fact, we can infer that the variant would quietly infect more people.
In fact, it would be a matter of time when oblivious, asymptomatic carriers of the COVID-19 variant — who traveled to the areas of U.K. that have suffered from the recent introduction of B.1.1.7 — would introduce this variant to the country they reside in, according to the New York Times. Due to its high transmissibility, there would be a sudden and exponential increase of the variant carrier in the country that was just introduced to the mutated virus only a few weeks ago.
The mutated virus is more likely to be detrimental to a larger group or society rather than the carriers of the actual variant.
“If the fatality rate increased by 50 percent, that would lead to 193 deaths. In contrast, a 50 percent increase in transmissibility would lead to a whopping 978 deaths in just one month,” a professor at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, Adam Kucharski, told The Atlantic.
In the case that the severity and fatality of the variant were amplified from the original virus, it would have tortured those who were infected with the virus exclusively. However, the proliferation of the transmission means that the wider population would experience the variant very quickly because of one person’s increased capability to spread to others.
This sudden increase in the COVID-19 variant patients can potentially threaten the vaccine roll-outs, according to The Atlantic. If the variant with higher transmissibility outnumbers the original strain of the virus, the vaccine distribution would eventually become ineffective not because of its powerlessness to fight against the virus, but because it is outnumbered by the infected patients.
The main contributor to the high transmission rate of B.1.1.7 is the increased amount of spike-proteins which allow the virus to attach to and eventually enter human cells, according to the New York Times.
“Some data suggests that the new variant may bind more tightly to a protein on the surface of human cells, allowing it to more readily infect them,” Dr. Bedford said.
The mutations that the virus went through made it considerably easier for the virus to go through the intricate immune system of humans and bind itself to the location of the cells.
A subsequent contributor of the transmissibility is that the carriers of B.1.1.7 are suggested to have a greater amount of virus in the body. The evidence from the U.K. conveyed how compared to the original version of COVID-19, the variant caused more viruses to hover around respiratory organs.
According to the New York Times, the more people infected by the new virus resulted in it being expelled into the air and onto surfaces.
Because the carriers release the viruses into places that are hard to be avoided, those who are exposed would be more prone to inhaling the virus and becoming the new carriers of the increased amount of virus, according to the New York Times. Once this cycle starts, it becomes a matter that is more challenging to control.
It is important to pay attention to the increased transmission of the variants because the virus easily goes through genetic changes as it multiplies, according to The Atlantic. With the mechanisms that this virus uses to improve its fitness unknown, people might trivialize the changes that this already-scary-virus went through.
It is most likely that this thought would be exhibited through fewer precautions which consist of careless face covering, the haphazard share of foods between friends (in a circumstance where you cannot even trust your closest family members), frequent visits to places highly concentrated with other imprudent people and massive gatherings during holidays, according to The Atlantic.
However, these attitudes are considered cocky for a group of people who do not even know about the exact traits of the new variant. Essentially, building an environment that allows viruses to transmit easily expedites mutations, which increases the transmission in return.
Yes, it is true that the original COVID-19 is a more widespread form of the virus currently, according to The Atlantic, and that it is vital to focus on the original strand which is indiscriminately causing an overwhelming amount of damages all over the world.
We do not want to add to the strain that the virus is already causing to everyone over the world. In fact, it is urgent that the pandemic is under control and does not swell into a gigantic force that would perpetuate the dooming lives and the oppressions that it has already thrown to us.
To do so, any upcoming threats that can amplify the power of the virus should be prevented and regulated.
I am not trying to accentuate that the new COVID-19 variant is like a fictional monster that would immediately destroy humanity. However, I believe that we should at least prevent the variant from putting our lives at the edge of the cliff because we could not prevent the original COVID-19 from getting out of control.
The appearance of a variant warns us of what might be coming up. It is easier to deal with unexploded dynamite rather than the one that violently exploded.