The new virus interfered with our lives and changed them once and forever about 2 years ago. Over this time, it has affected around 500 million people globally and has killed more than 6 million. Fortunately, now, we have effective tools for controlling and reducing the pandemic — medications and vaccination — but we haven’t managed to stop it yet. It keeps on giving rise to new variants of the coronavirus and infecting about 1 million people every day. Thus, each of us must stay aware and keep track of the new threats and risks.
Which Variants of Covid Arise Concern Today?
First, you must understand that it is natural for a virus to mutate and produce new variants — that’s its method of surviving. In such a way, it can bypass people’s immune protection and infect even those people who already have antibodies to it. As a result, its spread goes on. For example, you probably know that the flu virus mutates all the time — that’s the reason why we need to get vaccinated every year.
So, what happens when Covid-19 mutates? In some cases, changes are so minor that its properties do not change significantly. Yet, in many cases, this process results in new variants, which may differ in such aspects:
- how quickly the virus is transmitted in the population;
- how many people catch it;
- what the infectious dose is;
- which transmission methods are predominant;
- what characteristic symptoms are;
- how often it causes severe forms of the disease;
- how many people need hospitalization/oxygen support/ventilation/etc.;
- what the mortality percentage is.
You must know that, as of now, researchers have already registered thousands of variants of the new coronavirus, but only a few of them render special interest or concern, due to an extreme speed of spreading, a high risk of severe complications, or increased mortality percentage.
Covid-19 Variants of Concern
As of April 2022, this list includes three variants:
- Compared to earlier variants, this one is 100% more contagious and is more likely to develop into severe forms. At the same time, a full course of vaccination — two or one dose — dramatically reduces the risks.
- Omicron (B.1.1.529). It spreads faster than Delta and most other variants, yet, as a rule, patients develop mind forms of the disease only. The vaccination is less effective against it, however, it still keeps on preventing severe forms and fatal complications. Also, one must note that monoclonal antibodies work worse against it.
- Omicron (BA.2). When experts discovered this new variant, it looked like it was harder to be transmitted and would vanish away within a short term. But practice showed that it was as easy to catch as BA.1. As of now, researchers conclude that it spreads faster than other variants, but there is no increase in the number of severe cases.
Other Variants that Attract Much Interest
- It was the first mutation being publicly discussed. It is characterized by increased transmissibility (70% higher). At the same time, it is highly vulnerable to vaccines. No increase in mortality is registered.
- It spreads among people easier than the initial variant of the virus, yet, there is no rise in the frequency of severe cases.
- It is considered to be easier to catch than earlier variants. Furthermore, research shows it is capable of escaping antibodies and causing repeated Covid cases.
- It is classified as “a variant of interest” by the WHO, which involves researchers devoting special attention to it. There is evidence that this mutation may be less vulnerable to our immune system and vaccination.
Available Treatments and Where to Buy
As this infection is new, as of now, there are not so many specified medications. Fortunately, most cases are mild when an organism is capable of killing the virus without any pharma aid. Meanwhile, in more severe cases, doctors usually prescribe repurposed meds (which are usually applied for curing other diseases but have proven to act against Covid-19 as well).
- Paxlovid (Nirmatrelvir+Ritonavir) — a recently described antiviral drug of direct action against the new virus and a number-one choice for patients who belong to one of the risk groups with mild and moderate forms of the disease. Now, in the USA, it is provided to a limited category of patients free of charge. This formulation has made a dramatic change to the prospects of risk group treatment as it has proven to cut the frequency of hospitalization and fatal consequences by 90%. It is intended for utilization at an early stage of the disease.
- Molnupiravir — another newly discovered medication, which is designed to inhibit SARS-CoV-2 at the genetic level. Its effectiveness in terms of hospitalization and mortality percentage is only 30% so far, but it has much fewer limitations for use compared to Paxlovid. In the US, it is also available for free for certain patients. It is recommended for administration within the first few days after the beginning of the disease.
- Ivermectin — this antihelminthic drug has a multi-faceted action. Besides killing parasites, it provides antiviral and anti-inflammatory effects. Thus, many doctors believe it can help severe Covid patients avoid and overcome complications connected with excessive immune activity — cytokine storm. Although there is still further research needed, it is one of the most probable candidates for being officially approved for overcoming Covid-19 — read a detailed guide.
- Veklury (Remdesevir) — an antiviral medication, which was first used against Ebola, but later was repurposed for administering to hospitalized patients with severe forms of the new coronavirus. Besides, there is data proving that it can help to reduce the risk of hospitalization in patients from risk groups.
- Dexamethasone (Dextenza) — this product belongs to corticosteroids and acts by controlling the operation of an immune system. Namely, it is capable of suppressing its excessive reactions like unwanted inflammation. It is approved for use in Covid patients in severe and critical states.
- Hydroxychloroquine — another antiparasitic formula, which is considered to have potential against SARS-CoV-2 based on its antiviral and immune-modulating properties, but it is not approved for this purpose yet. Its original sphere of use comprises treating and preventing malaria.
- Olumiant (Baricitinib) — an effective means for relieving inflammation, pains, swelling, and other symptoms in the case of rheumatoid arthritis. In addition, there is evidence that it is capable of preventing the new coronavirus from penetrating human cells, as well as suppressing related unwanted inflammation. It is already authorized for hospitalized patients.
- Zithromax (Azithromycin) — this antibiotic is administered in the case of bacterial infections and complications, but it also manifests antiviral and anti-inflammatory features, as well as effectiveness at the early stages of Covid.
- Xevudy (Sotrovimab) — this formulation is produced in the form of an injectable solution containing synthetic antibodies, namely, monoclonal antibodies. They work identically to natural ones, which are produced in the organism of a person who has already overcome the infection.
Although there is an extensive range of formulations for treating both mild and severe forms of Covid-19, we insist that it is safer and cheaper to do everything in your power to avoid catching the infection.
- Vaccination. It is still acknowledged as the most reliable method of protecting yourself from severe forms of the disease, hospitalization, and death. So, be sure to get both a standard course of vaccination and a booster dose (for the highest protection).
- Put them on both indoors when in a public place and outdoors when in a crowd if that is required by your local authorities.
- Social distance of no less than 6 feet.
- Hand hygiene. Wash your hands with soap (or apply a disinfectant) after returning home, before meals, and after touching any surfaces which can be contaminated.
- Staying in touch with your doctor. As we’ve already noted above, there are two antiviral medicines that can significantly reduce your risk of being hospitalized and facing dangerous complications in case you start taking them at once after noticing the first symptoms. Hence, our advice is to contact your healthcare provider shortly after you feel ill and ask for further instructions.