What do they say? Practice makes perfect, right? Meaning, you do something every day and you get better and better at it. Eventually, you end up mastering it. Well, humans aren’t the only ones that can “practice” to change over time. Viruses can do that, too. I’m talking about mutations. Mutations are changes in genetic material like DNA or RNA.
Have you ever played the game telephone? If not, I’ll explain. Telephone usually involves a group of people who sit in a line or circle. One person in the circle begins the game with a message, and whispers that message into their neighbor’s ear. The neighbor who received the message then passes it on to the person on their other side, whispering it in their ear. This continues on and on until the final person is reached in the line, or if in a circle, the original person gets the message. The first person may say “I love walking my dogs on Saturday evenings”, and by the time it reaches the final recipient, the message has changed to “I love wildcats on safari adventures”. These are two completely different sayings with two meanings, but the two different sayings originated from one thing.
Genetic mutations happen similarly to a botched game of telephone. Viruses can begin as one thing but over time, change. Just like in the telephone game. But COVID-19 is certainly not a game. Remember, you don’t even have to be coughing or sneezing to pass along the virus. When you don’t show symptoms of having the disease, then that’s called being asymptomatic. At the time that this article was written, the CDC states that you can be infected with COVID-19 and be able to spread the virus TWO DAYS before you may experience any signs or symptoms of having the disease. And you can remain contagious for at least TEN DAYS after the signs and symptoms first appeared. All of those people and places that you could potentially be in contact with to spread the virus is essentially another chance for the virus to continue to mutate and change over time. The mutations can be passed to the next generation of viruses. It’s like adding in more and more people into the telephone game, and providing more and more opportunities for that message to get mixed up along the way that the message is getting passed around.
Over time, the genetic makeup of viruses can mutate. You can’t predict ahead of time exactly when and where a mutation will happen, but the more “practice” a virus has, the more chances it’s possible for the mutations that it accumulates can make it become more infectious or harmful. That is exactly what we’re seeing today with the variants.
Early on in the pandemic, variants of the virus began emerging. Variants are expected. The CDC has been outlining “variants of concern” on their website and detailing what the differences are between them. The Delta variant of COVID-19 has been concerning as where currently authorized vaccines have proven effective against the virus, with the Delta variant of COVID-19, we are seeing a larger proportion of “breakthrough infections”. Breakthrough infections occur when a person is vaccinated against the virus, but still becomes infected. At this time, preliminary evidence is suggesting that even if you are fully vaccinated, you still have the chance of spreading the Delta variant of COVID-19. However, all currently authorized vaccines have been shown to be particularly effective against severe illness, hospitalization, and death.
The Lambda variant of COVID-19 has been making its way around the news recently. At the time that this article has been written, the CDC has not placed it on its “variants of concern list”. For now. What can we do to protect ourselves? We just have to stop creating opportunities for the virus to be spread. It’s simple, but it’s obvious that it has been a struggle for our country to get it together. At this time, the CDC strongly urges those who can get vaccinated, to do so. Why? By getting vaccinated against the virus, we can lower our chances of contracting the virus and becoming seriously ill, but most importantly, reduce the likelihood of spreading the virus. I also personally recommend continuing to practice social distancing when possible, for this same reason of cutting down on opportunities for viruses to spread. Until we get this thing under control, it's best to be careful. Better safe than sorry!
As always, I look forward to having discussions with you on my Facebook page about these important topics! If you have any questions, be sure to ask! Have a great week.
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