Viruses mutate all of the time, so health experts are not the least bit surprised that new variants of COVID-19 have been identified. However, the most concerning aspect of the newest variant, dubbed VUI-202012/01 (the first Variant Under Investigation in December 2020), is that it appears to spread at a much more rapid pace then the original. So how do you know if you have the new COVID mutation or the original? We asked Darren Mareiniss, MD, Assistant Professor of Emergency Medicine at Sidney Kimmel Medical College – Thomas Jefferson University, for all the signs and symptoms. Read on—and to ensure your health and the health of others, don’t miss these Sure Signs You’ve Already Had Coronavirus.
“Current Testing Does Not Discriminate Between Different Strains”
According to Dr. Mareiniss, the symptoms of the new strain are the same as the old and include fever, fatigue, muscle ache, chills, sore throat, loss of taste and smell. Obviously, this can make it difficult to differentiate between the two strands. And, as of now “current testing does not discriminate between different strains,” he says.
Experts believe that the virus underwent a mutation sometime in September in Southeast England, possibly in London or the county of Kent. However, alarm wasn’t raised until December 18, when Susan Hopkins of Public Health England (PHE) notified the government upon learning that it may increase the reproductive rate by 0.4 or more, making it up to 70 percent more transmissible than the old variant.
“The increase in cases linked to the new variant first came to light in late November when PHE was investigating why infection rates in Kent [in southeast England] were not falling despite national restrictions. We then discovered a cluster linked to this variant spreading rapidly into London and Essex,” PHE said.
The biggest complication with a strain that is more transmissible — regardless of whether the symptoms are the same or even less severe — is that more people will become infected in a shorter period of time. And, while each individual infection may not be any more deadly than the previous strand, due to the greater number of people who will become infected, it will result in more deaths overall.
“VUI-202012/01 will cause more infections, likely more deaths, and also overwhelm our healthcare resources more rapidly,” says Dr. Mareiniss.
RELATED: Dr. Fauci Just Said When We’d Be Back to “Normal”
How to Avoid All Kinds of Coronaviruses
So how can you avoid catching the new strain and perpetuating its spread? “Given the more transmissible strain, it’s even more important that people socially distance and avoid congregating indoors,” he says. So follow the fundamentals and help end this surge, no matter where you live—wear a face mask, social distance, avoid large crowds, don’t go indoors with people you’re not sheltering with (especially in bars), practice good hand hygiene, get vaccinated when it becomes available to you, and to protect your life and the lives of others, don’t visit any of these 35 Places You’re Most Likely to Catch COVID.