How the New Covid Mutation Could Change Everything

There’s a new variant of COVID-19 that has the attention of a lot of people. First detected by scientists from the Network for Genomic Surveillance in South Africa, the new strain is officially called “B.1.1.529”. 

This is not the Delta variant but is instead referred to as the Omicron variant. We’re going to take a look at the potential consequences of this variant, what’s different about it, whether there will be travel restrictions, and more. 

Hopefully, this article can give you a decent idea of what to expect in the near future in terms of this new covid mutation. Let’s get started. 

Understanding The New Covid Mutation

Doctors in South Africa have noted a few differences in some of their COVID-19 patients over the last month. Slight differences in symptoms were indications that there could be something different about the genetic strain of the virus that their COVID-positive patients had. 

Fortunately, doctors report that the symptoms of this strain are mild. The term “extremely mild” has even been used to describe the Omicron variant. That isn’t to say, though, that the symptoms couldn’t be severe depending on the person that’s affected. 

The symptoms are reported to include a set of body aches and a headache. There’s not as much of a sore throat as a dry and scratchy throat, and the cough isn’t nearly as severe as other variants. 

One Doctor, Dr. Angelique Coetzee, practices in South Africa at the supposed epicenter of the Omicron variant, and her reports match the description above. 

In terms of the health consequences of this virus, those symptoms are an excellent sign. That isn’t to say that there aren’t other factors or complications with this virus that are yet to be understood, though. 

A lot of research has to be done to establish how dangerous the Omicron variant is to particular populations. 

What’s Different About Omicron?

Apart from the symptoms, the Omicron variant has a particular feature that’s a cause for concern. 

That feature is what’s called the “spike protein.” The spike protein is the aspect of the virus that allows it to latch onto the host. In physical terms, think of the spikes that come out of the actual individuals of the virus. 

When we look at pictures, we can see that there are things protruding out from the circular virus. If you use your imagination, you can see those things coming together to look like a crown. The word for the crown in Spanish is “corona.”

That’s where the term “coronavirus” comes from. That term refers to all of the viruses of that class, and the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) is just one of those viruses. 

The Omicron variant has over 30 mutations on this protein. Although research is still in the first steps, those mutations could make Omicron the most viral variant of COVID-19 to date. That means it could spread far and wide and cause a number of implications. 

There’s also talk about this variant having mutations that evade the immune system response. 

Implications of These Factors

At this time, it looks like the variant has mild symptoms. That’s a positive thing in itself, but more research needs to get done to know that fact for sure. The ability of Omicron to spread, though, is a huge cause for concern. 

South Africa’s population is around 40 percent vaccinated, but that number is a lot higher than many other African countries where vaccines aren’t as accessible. 

That means that the new variant has a healthy environment for itself to spread and reproduce. As the variant reproduces, it gives itself more and more opportunities to mutate. 

Even if the symptoms of this virus are as mild as they say, there’s no telling whether its mutations will be as forgiving. One way to stop that spread is to deliver more vaccines to the individuals who will take them. Social distancing and PPE mandates might also resurge in importance. 

What’s The State of Omicron At This Time?

There’s an important distinction to make when we refer to a virus in its early stages of detection. That distinction is that just because a virus gets detected in a particular country, it doesn’t mean that it originated in that country. 

Unfortunately, undue criticism and discrimination get attributed to people from countries that are thought to have “started” viruses. Any look into how these things work will tell you that there’s nothing about a group of people that has any part to play in that process. 

Viruses mutate as all biological things do, and those mutations reproduce, leading to new strains. Any individual host to COVID-19 could hold the origins of a new variant. Cases are high in most countries around the world, so there’s a chance that any one of us could “start” a variant if that’s how you want to look at it. 

As things stand, there are fewer than 100 Omicron cases detected in South Africa. There were even a few cases found in The Netherlands before South Africa detected the variant. Other instances of the variant have since been found everywhere from Western Europe to North America. 

There are, no doubt, more cases floating around than that. Those are the ones that we’ve detected so far, but the detection rate is far from one hundred percent. 

Will Travel Restrictions Come Back?

The World Health Organization plays a big part in whether or not travel restrictions get put in place. While it’s up to the particular countries to make those decisions, The WHO’s opinion holds a lot of weight. 

Because the variant is so new, the WHO is advising that it’s too soon to put travel restrictions back in place. It might take some time to understand all of the consequences of the new variant, and jumping on travel restrictions could do more harm than good. 

At the same time, wealthy Western countries are imposing travel bans on South Africa and other African countries. Leaders of those countries are pushing back against these measures, as they might be hasty and uninformed. 

As we noted, the variant was detected in a number of countries and continents across the globe. South Africa might have been the first country to identify the variant, but that gives no indication as to where the variant started. 

Travel restrictions, though, seem to be targeted at African countries and this looks and feels like a punitive measure of some kind to those countries. The actions are worsened by the fact that they aren’t informed by science, as there isn’t enough science on the Omicron variant to base decisions on. 

Will There Be an Effect on Global Markets?

As to whether there will be a massive effect on the market, there’s no telling. An impact similar to the primary COVID-19 epidemic is unlikely, although there could be a smaller impact. 

Countries are already setting travel bans, so the impact on restricted countries has begun in some ways. The full impact of Omicron has yet to be understood, but clearer predictions are on the way. Once more science on the variant comes through, estimations about consequences will hold more weight. 

At the same time, news spreads, and people move their money around accordingly. The fear of a new variant has already made an impact on global markets. 

For example, the Bitcoin price started to drop in the wake of the news about Omicron. After news that the variant produced only mild symptoms, though, things started to recuperate. The next news cycle could have a massive impact, though. 

There are a lot of pieces of the global market that get damaged when new variants show up and lock things down. It’s too volatile to tell what the future holds, though. 

How Can You Stay Updated on Changes?

It’s tough to know where to look for good news sources, especially when it comes to data on COVID-19. It typically helps to look to the biggest global organizations for information on things like travel bans and restrictions. 

When it comes to information on the science and evidence, try to follow things back to their original source. The further you get from the source, the more iterations that information goes through. 

People manipulate information in ways that agree with their worldview, and that’s disadvantageous when it comes to your health. At the same time, there’s nothing wrong with finding a good individual source who does the research and reports back. 

Prabir Purohit, for example, offers a blog with conversations on these topics. Generally speaking, though, big advances in the story will be easy to find. Look through a few different sources and get a consensus on what’s happening, what it means, and what to do. 

Want to Learn More About World News?

Hopefully, the information above gave you some decent insight into the new covid mutation. There’s more to learn, though, and things are changing all of the time. 

We’re here to help you get the information you need. Explore our site for more insight into COVID-19, the Omicron variant, travel restrictions, and more.

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