COVID-19 is a virus, and like most viruses it mutates as it reproduces inside the cells of an infected person. The changed virus can then be spread to others and may continue to mutate as it moves from person to person. COVID-19 viruses that have changed or mutated are called variants.
Several variant strains of COVID-19 have been identified in Alberta. These strains are known as variants of concern because they spread more easily than other strains. They have been identified in many other countries around the world. It is expected that other variant strains will be identified in the future.
Alberta is monitoring for variant strains of COVID-19 that have a higher infection rate. Refer to Alberta Health for the latest case numbers.
B.1.1.7 - also called the Alpha variant
B.1.351 - also called the Beta variant
P.1 - also called the Gamma variant
Work is underway by the international scientific and public health communities to better understand the biological significance of these variant strains, including how the current vaccines may help protect against them.
So far, evidence suggests variants of concern spread more easily than the original strain, meaning they are more contagious. These new variants may also cause more severe illness. The increased spread of COVID-19 would result in more illness, hospitalizations and deaths.
Symptoms are the same as original COVID-19, including cough, fever, shortness of breath, runny nose, sore throat, loss of sense of taste or smell, or other symptoms.
While the variants of concern spread more easily, they spread in the same way as original COVID-19. This means the same types of preventive strategies will be effective. However, these variants can more easily take advantage of any relaxation of those preventive measures.
To protect yourself and those around you, follow all public health guidance, including:
If you have factors that increase your risk of COVID-19, or you want to take additional precautions:
These are all important steps to preventing the spread of the virus, regardless of what strain it is.
Variants now make up a significant proportion of COVID-19 cases in Alberta. If you test positive for COVID-19 you will receive an initial notification of your test results. You should assume you have a variant strain of COVID-19.
You are legally required to isolate immediately for at least 10 days from when your symptoms started, or from the date you were tested. This applies whether or not you have been immunized for COVID-19. Because variant strains spread more easily it is even more important to isolate completely away from others in your household whenever possible.