What to know about the new Covid variant:
As Covid-19 cases spiral out of control in the United States, there is fear of the new variant of the virus, known as B.1.1.7, spreading wildly throughout the country. First appearing in Britain, this new strain has demonstrated its resistance to lockdown measures in the UK, quickly overwhelming hospitals throughout the country despite new, more severe restrictions. B.1.1.7 has already been found in at least five U.S. states: Florida, Georgia, New York, Colorado, and California.
But what does this new variant really entail? And what can be done to stop it?
What know about B.1.1.7:
It is NOT a new supervirus, nor does it cause more severe symptoms that the Covid-19 we are familiar with.
Research has shown B.1.1.7 has increased transmissibility. There is speculation that the virus may make children as susceptible as adults to catching and transmitting it to others.
A strand in South Africa similar to B.1.1.7 is found to carry a heavier viral load in the upper respiratory tract, which may lead to more severe symptoms- but has not found to do so yet.
Scientists are still unsure of where B.1.1.7 came from. But one theory is that it mutated within people with weak immune systems, in which the virus can survive for long periods of time and replicate wildly. Another possibility is that B.1.1.7 was created within an animal population before it re-entered the human population.
Moderna and Pfizer vaccines will NOT be rendered ineffective by B.1.1.7. Both vaccines generate immunity by teaching our immune systems how to create antibodies that latch onto the spike protein on the surface of the virus. The spike is how Covid-19 enters our cells and with antibodies on the spike, the virus cannot enter our cells. While a mutation could change the shape of the spike to the point where antibodies could not attach, B.1.1.7 has not done that. B.1.1.7 includes 8 mutations on the spike, but none make the vaccines ineffective.
Personal protective equipment and measures are still effective in stopping the spread of B.1.1.7. The new variant is not resistant to hand sanitizer or permeate more easily through masks.
B.1.1.7 is the product of 23 different mutations, which can be seen below.
How can the spread of B.1.1.7 be stopped?
Unfortunately, as the system for checking coronavirus strands for new mutations stands in the United States, it’s not going to happen fast enough to prevent a mass spreading. The U.K. was successful in quickly identifying B.1.1.7 due to its national surveillance program, which tracks the genetic evolution of the coronavirus by sequencing the genome of 10% of the positive samples. Britain has sequenced 209,038 coronavirus genomes, almost ⅔ of the global number. The United States has only sequenced 58,560.
But the good news is that 2 gene-sequencing companies, Helix and Illumina, announced a partnership to track B.1.1.7 with the assistance of the CDC. 1,000 genes a week are being sequenced per week, and while this is nowhere close to what will be needed to match the UK’s sequencing rates, this is some progress towards identifying new strands of Covid-19 in America.
The Bottom Line:
If you're scared of B.1.1.7, your fear is warranted. But if you're taking care of your health and still following social distancing and other Covid-19 guidelines, you will likely be fine. But, to protect yourself further, there are measures you can take to strengthen your immune system. Numerous published studies have reported that maintaining optimal levels of Vitamin D and Zinc decrease the risk of complications and death from COVID-19.
But Vitamin D and zinc are not specific for the coronavirus but for their effects on fortifying your immune system. Start now by giving your body the support it needs to combat infection by creating an inhospitable environment for invading viruses; one that does not support viral replication and survival.
While supporting your immune system with needed nutrients is critically important, there is no magic pill. Maintaining strength and resiliency also depends on other influences such as getting 6-8 hours of restful sleep, eating mainly healthy and whole foods, and exercise. Click here to read more and see our recommendations!