21st October 2021
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It’s been over 13 months since the first reported case of a pneumonia-like infection in Wuhan, China. Even in 2021, Covid-19 continues to be a global health problem.  This disease, caused by severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) has developed more than 11 known variants and has made diagnosis and treatment a little more difficult. To give a bit of context, viruses are microscopic in nature and live off other organisms. They often experience an alteration in their genetic material through a process called mutation to produce variants. This process can affect some of the virus’ abilities such as how fast and easily it can spread, how severe it can be and most importantly the level of performance of vaccines, tests, treatments and other measures against it. The World Health Organization (WHO) with the help of other organizations has categorized these variants into 3 groups, namely: Variants of Concern (VOC), Variants of Interest (VOI) and Variants under Monitoring.

Variants of Concern: These variants are easily transmissible and can cause more harm to those infected. There is also a decrease in the effectiveness of tests, vaccines, treatments or social measures against them. They are:

  1. Alpha (B.1.1.7, UK variant): This variant was first sequenced on 20th September in the UK and it has been identified in more than 70 countries. 
  2. Beta (B.1.351, South African variant): it was reported in South Africa on December 18, 2020 and was detected in the United States in January. 
  3. Gamma (P.1, Brazilian variant): This variant is the dominant strain in Brazil and has spread to other regions in South America. Presently it has been detected in many other countries.
  4. Delta (B.1.617.2, Indian variant): This variant was first identified in India and is far more transmissible than the Alpha variant. So far, it has spread to 96 countries. 
Covid 19 variants. Photo credits: WHO

Variants of Interest: The variants in this group have an increasing level of prevalence in countries and could be a potential risk to global public health. The four variants include ETA B.1.525, Iota (B.1.526), Kappa (B.1.617.1) and Lambda (C.37). Most of the properties of these variants are still under investigation.

Variants Under Alert for Monitoring: They were previously categorized as either variants of interest or concern but no longer pose a high risk to global public health. They include B.1.427, B.1.429*, P.2*, P.3*, R.1, R.2, B.1.466.2, B.1.621, B.1.1.318, B.1.1.519, C.36.3, C.36.3.1, B.1.214.2, B.1.1.523, B.1.619 and B.1.620.

Symptoms of Corona Virus

Signs and symptoms of infection often manifest 5-6 days or up to 14 days after exposure. This is the reason people who have come in contact with infected persons are advised to self isolate for some days. Symptoms may vary depending on the severity of the infection. The most common symptoms are fever, dry cough and fatigue.

Coronavirus symptoms infographic. Photo credits: WHO

The less common symptoms include: 

  • Loss of taste or smell
  • Nasal congestion
  • Conjunctivitis (also known as red eyes)
  • Sore throat
  • Headache
  • Muscle or joint pain
  • Different types of skin rash,
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Chills or dizziness.

Symptoms of Severe Covid 19 cases

  • Shortness of breath
  • Loss of appetite
  • Confusion
  • Persistent pain or pressure in the chest
  • High temperature (above 38 °C).

Other less common symptoms are:

  • Irritability
  • Confusion
  • Reduced consciousness (sometimes associated with seizures)
  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Sleep disorders
  • More severe and rare neurological complications such as strokes, brain inflammation, delirium and nerve damage.

Kindly note that not all of these signs are caused by coronavirus.

Staying Safe

Nose mask. Photo credit: Mika Baumeister on Unsplash

Staying updated about the virus is a step in the right direction. It is important to read and share only credible information. Other tips on how to prevent and stop the spread of the virus include:

  • Use your clean nose mask in public places and gatherings.
  • Practice social distancing. Maintain at least 1 metre distance from people.
  • Wash your hands regularly because it inevitably has contact with your ears, nose and mouth. These are gates to your inner body. 
  • Cover your mouth with your bent elbow or tissue while coughing. 
  • Keep your house or living space well ventilated at all times. 
  • Pray
  • Most importantly, remain calm.

If you experience any or some of the symptoms listed above, contact your medical practitioner for more information and advice. Avoid self medication. We especially pray and hope that more progress be made towards finding a cure. We should always remember to honor the frontline workers, health workers, scientists, journalists, local business owners, delivery services and other organizations making efforts to curb the spread of the virus.

Stay safe.

Encourage someone to do the same. 

NOTE: The information above were referenced from the WHO webpage and other websites. The author and editor are not in anyway directly responsible for any information.

Ruth Torty

Ruth Torty is a biochemist, freelance health and biotechnology content writer. She writes to shed light on health issues, rare diseases and science research in Nigeria. She is also a creative writer and has published on different literary sites including Spillwords and Nnoko Stories. She is passionate about genomics and its role in healthcare.