CDC issues guidance on new COVID-19 variants

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As the global number of novel coronavirus (COVID-19) cases surpasses 101,000 worldwide, multiple variants are circulating globally. While information about the characteristics of the variants is rapidly emerging, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is tracking scientific efforts to learn more about how they might spread, whether they could cause more harm, and if currently authorized vaccines will protect people against them, according to new updates released by the agency.

There are multiple COVID-19 variants circulating globally, including variant B.1.1.7 in the United Kingdom, variant 1.351 in South Africa, and variant P.1 in Brazil. The variants seem to spread more easily and quickly than other variants, according to the CDC, which may lead to more cases of COVID-19.

Currently, there is no evidence that these variants cause more severe illness or increased risk of death. The larger concern, representatives said, is that an increased number of cases could lead to more strain on healthcare resources.

Viruses constantly change through mutation and new variants are expected, the CDC said. Some variants emerge and disappear, while others emerge and persist. SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, is a type of coronavirus, a large family of viruses. Coronaviruses are named for the crown-like spikes on their surfaces. Scientists monitor changes in the virus, including changes to the spikes on the surface of the virus. These studies, including genetic analyses of the virus, are helping to understand how changes to the virus might affect how it spreads and what happens to people who are infected with it. Scientists and public health officials are working to learn more about the new variants, in an effort to quickly control their spread.

The CDC is monitoring the situation closely and urges rigorous and increased compliance with public health mitigation strategies, including masking, handwashing, physical distancing, isolation and quarantine, and vaccination.

Editor's note: Click here for more information and ongoing COVID-19 updates for integrative healthcare professionals.