Sunday, November 28, 2021

Where Do Viral Variants Come From?

Environmental & Science Education, STEM, Health, Medicine

Ed Hessler

COVID-19 consists of many variants--alpha, beta, gamma and delta are quite familiar terms to most of us.  We've just learned of a new one "variant of concern," dubbed Omicron after the 15th letter in the Greek alphabet.  It is the 7th variant of concern.

Little is known about it. The most concerning is the presence of 38 mutations, all strategically located on the spikes which are used by the virus to attach itself to cells. Some of these mutations are quite well known for their ability to slip right through the first line of defense.

 Omnicron is a quick spreader in unvaccinated populations. So the big question is just how effective current vaccines are against it. Virus expert, Dr. Peter Hotez, provided much more informed information about Omnicron than I could.  Reporting from  KHOU 11, Houston by Stephanie Whitfield includes a short embedded video featuring Dr. Hotez. Stay tuned. Things are bound to change but that there will be a surge in COVID-19 cases this winter seems a safe bet.

The purpose of this post is to answer a question on where these variants come from in the first place. In a mere 1m 56s video, the BBC's health correspondent Laura Foster and virologist, Dr. Cindy Duke explain why and what we can do to stop it happening. 

Many of you may know quite a bit about the origin of viral variants so you can skip it. On the other hand because it is short you can take a look and judge the content of this primer.

So wear masks where and when you should and get fully vaccinated, if you haven't taken this vital first step.

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