The nature of a virus is to mutate so it can more easily spread. COVID-19 is no exception, and right now, there are four dominant variants. According to the Centers for Disease Control, scientists actively monitor populations for new mutations. This is necessary for tracking the virus and devising treatments.
Variants of concern
The CDC uses the classifications of interest, concern and high-consequence. Fortunately, no current variants are high-consequence. However, four of them have been identified as variants of concern.
Delta is the dominant strain. It was first discovered in India and is significantly more transmissible. It may cause more severe symptoms.
Alpha was found in the United Kingdom and is a quick-spreading variant. Vaccines and treatments are effective against the Alpha variant.
The very transmissible Gamma variant was detected in Brazil and Japan. The Gamma variant draws concern due to its ability to spread quickly and render some treatments less effective.
Similar to Gamma, the Beta variant spreads quickly from one host to another. Vaccines are effective but it does seem to be more virulent, making monoclonal anti-body treatment less effective. This variant was discovered in South Africa.
Variants of interest and Mu
A global pandemic gives a virus many opportunities to mutate. It’s important to keep tabs on every new mutation so medical professionals can be ready. Several variants of interest have been identified.
There is one particular variant of interest that has many on edge. The Mu variant has been making headlines for some time now, adding to the slew of identified variants. The Mu variant was discovered in Columbia back in January 2021. It has slowly made its way to the United States in small numbers. The problem with the Mu variant centers on its elusiveness. Vaccine experts predict this could be the virus that evades the current roster of COVID-19 vaccines. If the Mu variant were to pick up speed and become the new dominant strain, it would mean starting from square one again.
Tackling the fourth wave
During a recent interview with Lakeland PBS News, Tammy Suchy, Tri-County Health Care Quality and Risk Management Director, spoke frankly about the current difficulties with COVID-19.
“We have unfortunately had to keep people here longer than normal for things like strokes, heart attacks and sepsis, because there are no beds available in our region. We’ve even transferred a patient as far away as South Dakota.”
Tammy and the staff of Tri-County Health Care know that with every new variant comes the possibility of worsening circumstances. During her interview, Suchy made it very clear that the vaccine is the only way out of the pandemic and defeating the slew of variants on our doorstep.
Getting the COVID-19 vaccine
Tri-County Health Care aims to vaccinate as many people as possible. To schedule an appointment, call 218-631-3510. Patients can also request the vaccine during normal provider appointments. Please follow Tri-County Health Care on social media or visit TCHC.org/covidvaccine for regular updates.