COVID-19 Mutates; Delta and Mu Spread

Vikesh Dheeriya, News Editor

With the authorization and distribution of vaccines in America, cases of the original SARS-CoV-2 virus decreased in case numbers; however, different variants of this virus have been identified and are possibly more deadly.

“COVID-19 is an RNA virus, so they are going to mutate more often than DNA viruses,” biology teacher Julie Maemoto said. “It’s the natural mechanism that allows them to continue to infect more people.”

Viruses like COVID-19 mutate all the time, but most of them aren’t much different from the original so there is little reason to identify them.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) only pays attention to certain variants if it affects vaccine effectiveness, severity and ease of transmission.

These specific variants which cause a severe illness or hurt vaccine effectiveness are labeled a variant of concern (VOC).

The most prevalent VOC, the Delta variant, was first discovered in India in December 2020. The variant is twice as contagious as the original virus and is more likely to hospitalize an infected individual. The Delta variant accounts for 99% of the recent cases nationwide and more than 2,000 deaths daily in the US.

First discovered in Colombia in January 2021, the Mu variant continues to spread in Los Angeles County. Because this variant is so new, it has not been labeled as a VOC as it is still being observed. There are still many questions on the contagiousness and severity of the Mu variant.

Just like all COVID variants, the unvaccinated population takes on the highest risk of death as well as spreading most of the cases.

“The most effective way to stop the transmission is with vaccines” Maemoto said.

With President Joe Biden’s new mandate, requiring all employees in businesses larger than 100 employees to get vaccinated, the rates of vaccination continue to rise. At least 72% of the California population has received one dose of the vaccine, per CDC.

As long as vaccination rates rise, less of the COVID-19 virus will have time to duplicate, circulate and mutate, reducing the types of variants being introduced into society.

“If we keep giving [COVID-19] a chance to mutate, we are going to see more variants,” Maemoto said.

A common justification for some people not getting the vaccine is that they already had COVID-19 and therefore have the antibodies, meaning that they are protected from COVID-19 in the future.

However, when these people receive a second exposure, COVID-19 can continue to mutate, creating even more variants that have a possibility of being more transmissible or deadly.

“To end it, to bring the numbers down globally, to really make it safe again without masks,” Maemoto said. “We have to get vaccinated.”