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.
Variant strains of COVID-19 have recently 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 (United Kingdom)
B.1.351 (South Africa)
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, 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:
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.
Tested positive for COVID-19
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 will not be notified of the specific type of variant. 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. Because variant strains spread more easily it is even more important to isolate completely away from others in your household whenever possible. If you cannot isolate away from others in your house, consider a different location, such as an isolation hotel. Call 211 if you need to access isolation hotels.
Close contact of a case with a variant strain of COVID-19
Because you are a close contact to a person with COVID-19 you are legally required to quarantine for 14 days from the time you were exposed and monitor for symptoms.
Book a COVID-19 test as soon as you receive confirmation that you are a close contact of someone who tested positive for a variant of COVID-19.
See Alberta Health Isolation and Quarantine Requirements for more information.