Hands, face and space: New variants of coronavirus

By: Dr Asif Channer      Published: 10:42 PM, 18 Jan, 2021
Hands, face and space: New variants of coronavirus
–File photo

Novel Coronavirus is a new disease in the history of mankind. The disease surfaced in Wuhan, Hubei, China for the first time in December 2019, then it spread to the globe and still it is uncontrollable. It was named as “Covid-19” by the World Health Organization (WHO) on February 11, 2020. In Pakistan the first case was recorded on February 24, 2020.

It is a viral disease and it is a dilemma with the all viruses especially the RNA viruses that they mutate over the period of time and this Covid virus is also included in this category. Covid-19 is a type of coronavirus which belongs to a large family of viruses. Coronaviruses are titled for the crown-like spikes on their surfaces.

Since the start of pandemic this virus is being observed for changes, including variation the spikes on its surface along with genetic studies to help determine as how these changes affect how it extents and what happens to people who are infected with it. Multiple variants of the virus that causes COVID-19 have been documented globally and this process in ongoing.

At present multiple COVID-19 variants are in circulation around the globe for instance In the United Kingdom (UK), a new variant B.1.1.7 has appeared with a remarkably large number of mutations. This variant disseminates more easily and quickly than other variants. Recently, there is no evidence that it causes more severe illness or enhanced risk of deaths. This variant it was first September 2020 when this variant was detected and now it is highly prevalent around London and southeast England. It has since been detected in several countries around the world, including Canada and the United States.

In South Africa, another variant 1.351 has arose individually of the variant noticed in the UK. This variant was detected in October and it bonds some mutations with the variant detected in the UK. The cases produced by this variant outside of South Africa are on the record but it has not been traced in the US.  Recently in Brazil, a variant P.1 has been advanced. It was recognized in four travellers from Brazil, who were tested during routine screening in Tokyo, Japan at Haneda airport. This variant contains a set of additional mutations that may affect its ability to be recognized by antibodies. Again it has not been spotted in the US.  The point to be noted is that these variants spread more easily and rapidly hence may lead to more cases of COVID-19 but Evidences are lacking that these variants cause more severe infection or increased risk of deaths. However, an increase in the number of cases will overburden the health care resources, leading to more hospitalizations and resultantly more causalities. Laborious and increased compliance with public health mitigation plans, such as vaccination, social distancing, use of face masks, hand hygiene, disinfection, isolation and quarantine, will be vital to limit the Covid.

Furthermore, the efforts are underway to explore these variants to evaluate their wide spread, disease pattern different from the disease caused by other variants that are currently circulating, effect of existing therapies and vaccines regimes on them.

International Public health authorities are reviewing vigilantly to spot and typify emerging viral variants, to control their spread, to understand whether man to man spread is more easily by these variants or not, their detection by the currently available tests, severity of the disease like mild, moderate or severe, response to drugs and vaccines in use to treat the Covid victims.

It must be remembered that due to these rapid variations and mutations in the virus, the ongoing vaccination regimes in the world are not the effective solution alone, as the vaccine provides the short term protection, it cannot prevent you from getting the virus or spreading the disease to others nor reinfection.  However, it may help in lessening the severity thus complications of Covid.

Therefore, despite getting effective vaccination, the other protective measures like washing hands, using facemask, social distancing, which in 2021 has been increased to six meters in some parts of the world like UK, isolation quarantine and disinfection are inevitable but nevertheless the more vaccines are being developed including the nasal vaccines and these should be received by all as per availability and priority regimes set by the different countries.  The pattern of the pandemic is not fully understandable nor predictable thus the virus is still a mystery despite having about a year long history. As per recent Reports after May 2020 the new cases have been re-emerging in China during the first half of the January 2021.

Luckily, in Pakistan none of these variants have not been reported to date.  However, about 40 to 50 deaths, 2500 new cases on daily basis, transmission rate between 6 to 7, about 2500 critically sick patients, 35000 active cases along with resuming of academic activities can emerge as hidden iceberg for already compromised health infrastructure and poor socioeconomic in the absence of all previously mentioned prophylactic measures.

Too much awareness campaigns, SOPs. Guidelines are available but contrary the implementation is lacking at all levels. Moreover, the changes in the human behaviours and life styles are also unavoidable for the better cohabiting with the virus and prevention of Pandemic morbidity and mortality.

Lastly, these variants are posing new threats and challenges to the world hence all the routine activities of daily life be reinforced to be controlled under the cover of the slogan “Hands, Face and Space “for the survival of the “Protectionist”.

Categories : Opinion