Questions and answers
New Coronavirus Mutation
A quick guide on the new coronavirus mutation and variant
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New Coronavirus Mutation
As the US and parts of Europe prepare for vaccination the UK has just released the news that a new coronavirus mutation and variant has been discovered.
What do we know about the new coronavirus mutation and variant?
A recent study of the new coronavirus mutation variant has been published and has identified 17 potential mutations.
Essentially there were changes to the spike protein – this is the key the virus uses to unlock the doorway to our body.
One mutation called N501Y alters the most important part of the spike, known as the “receptor-binding domain”.
This is where the spike makes first contact with the surface of our body’s cells. Any changes that make it easier for the virus to get inside are likely to give it an edge.
“It looks and smells like an important adaptation,” said Prof Loman.
The other mutation – a H69/V70 deletion, in which a small part of the spike is removed – has emerged several times before, including famously in infected mink.
Work by Prof Ravi Gupta at the University of Cambridge has suggested this mutation increases infectivity two-fold in lab experiments.
Prof Gupta said: “It is rapidly increasing, that’s what’s worried the government, we are worried, most scientists are worried.”
Where did it come from?
The most likely explanation is the mutation has developed in a patient with a already weak immune system that was unable to beat the virus.
Instead the body of the patient became a breeding ground for the virus to mutate.
Is it more dangerous?
At this point it is too early to say but there is nothing as of now that indicates it is more dangerous.
Having said that, an increased rate of infections in this mutated variant means more patients in hospitals.
What about vaccination?
A we know several countries and governments have worked on a vaccine for months now. So does this mean the vaccine will help against this new coronavirus mutation? We can’t say for certain but all three leading vaccine companies develop an immune response against the existing spike, which is why the question comes up.
Vaccines train the immune system to attack several different parts of the virus, so even though part of the spike has mutated, the vaccines should still work.
How to protect yourself from the coronavirus mutation
Try to avoid travelling to affected areas. Most affected areas are in the Far-East, especially where it originated from: China (reportedly 3000+ death cases as per October 2020). Worldwide there are over 38Million infected cases and over 1 Million+ deaths reported.
Many airlines have suspended travel to China in recent weeks. Few selected airlines are still travelling but even some pilots have recently gone on strikes for not wanting to fly to China. Other areas affected by the coronavirus are: Hong Kong, Vietnam, Philippines, Thailand, Japan, India, Bangladesh. You may also view confirmed cases by map on the CDC website here.
If you absolutely must travel then we suggest you take several precautions mentioned below.
Wash your hands frequently
Wear medical masks
How to wear a mask properly
- Before putting on a mask, clean hands with alcohol-based hand rub or soap and water.
- Cover mouth and nose with mask and make sure there are no gaps between your face and the mask.
- Avoid touching the mask while using it; if you do, clean your hands with alcohol-based hand rub or soap and water.
- Replace the mask with a new one as soon as it is damp and do not re-use single-use masks.
- To remove the mask: remove it from behind (do not touch the front of mask); discard immediately in a closed bin; clean hands with alcohol-based hand rub or soap and water.
What kind of mask should I wear to prevent coronavirus infections?
In short N95 graded respirator masks are the most effective ones as the respirator is thicker than a surgical mask.
Surgical masks are intended for surgeons, because these products do a good job of keeping pathogens from the doctor’s nose and mouth.
It is not uncommon in some Asian countries, such as Japan, Hong Kong and China, to see people wearing surgical masks in public to protect themselves against pathogens and pollution. But those masks don’t help much in the context of a virus.
Surgical masks are not designed to keep out viral particles, and they’re not nearly as tightly fitted around your nose and cheeks, as an N95 respirator.
However if you are travelling, at airports or are in crowded places these surgical masks do a modest to good job protecting you from coronavirus.
Disinfectant wipes are a great solution to keep your hands clean when you are on the go or when you are going to places that might have a large crowd of people. Whether you want to clean a seat, handrails on a bus or a table in a restaurant to sit down, these can come in very handy. Make sure they are alcohol and/or antibacterial/antiviral based.
Avoid crowded public places
Try not to spend longer periods of time in crowded and public places such as shopping malls, airports, restaurants or train stations. If you do spend longer periods of time in such places clean and wash your hands frequently, use a N95 respirator/mask or bring disinfectant wipes.
Cover your nose and mouth
If you are not wearing a mask in affected or public areas cover your nose and mouth when coughing or sneezing.
Keep social distance (especially to those who are coughing, sneezing or have a fever/hot temperature.
Maintain at least 1 metre (3 feet) distance between yourself and other people, particularly those who are coughing, sneezing and have a fever.
Why? When someone who is infected with a respiratory disease, like 2019-nCoV, coughs or sneezes they project small droplets containing the virus. If you are too close, you can breathe in the virus.
Avoid touching eyes, nose and mouth
Consult a doctor or medical care if you feel unwell
As a general precaution, practice general hygiene measures when visiting live animal markets, wet markets or animal product markets
Ensure regular hand washing with soap and potable water after touching animals and animal products; avoid touching eyes, nose or mouth with hands; and avoid contact with sick animals or spoiled animal products. Strictly avoid any contact with other animals in the market (e.g., stray cats and dogs, rodents, birds, bats). Avoid contact with potentially contaminated animal waste or fluids on the soil or structures of shops and market facilities.
Avoid consumption of raw or undercooked animal products
Handle raw meat, milk or animal organs with care, to avoid cross-contamination with uncooked foods, as per good food safety practices.
Wrapping things up, don’t panic. Even if you hear of coronavirus mutation and variant cases in your country, if you follow above suggestions you are highly unlikely to contract the coronavirus. Moreover even when infected with the coronavirus the chances of getting healthy again with common flu-like medicine are in the very high percentage. Consult a doctor or medical care if you feel unwell from the beginning.