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.
Recently, new variant COVID-19 strains were identified in the United Kingdom, South Africa and Brazil. These strains are Variants of Concern because they appear to spread more easily than other strains. They have since also been identified in many other countries around the world.
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 the Variants of Concern transmit more easily than the original strain, meaning they are more contagious. While early research is not clear whether these new variants tend to cause more severe illness in an individual, there is concern about the impact on our communities if such a COVID-19 variant virus became common. The increased spread of COVID-19 would result in more illness, hospitalizations and deaths.
Symptoms are the same as the usual COVID-19, including cough, fever, shortness of breath, runny nose, sore throat, or other symptoms.
While the new COVID-19 Variants of Concern seem to spread more easily, they are believed to spread in the same way as the usual virus. This means that the same types of preventive strategies will be effective. However, the new variants can more easily take advantage of any relaxation of those preventive measures.
Learn more about the new COVID-19 variants.
Alberta is monitoring for variant strains of COVID-19 that have a higher infection rate. Refer to Alberta Health for the latest case numbers.
While the new COVID-19 Variants of Concern seem to spread more easily, they are thought to spread in the same way as the usual virus. This means that the same types of preventive strategies will be effective. To protect yourself and those around you, follow all public health guidance, including:
These are all critical steps to preventing the spread of the virus, regardless of what strain it is.
Remember to isolate immediately if you develop any of the COVID-19 symptoms, and get tested.
For information on testing, isolation/quarantine and supports for: