The pandemic, which started in the last months of 2019 with the death of many people in Wuhan, China due to pneumonia, still continues to affect the lives of millions around the world, while leaving its second year behind. The new type of coronavirus, which is the cause of the pandemic, continues to exist in society by undergoing various changes.
What is a New Type of Coronavirus, How Does It Cause Disease in Humans?
Since the beginning of the pandemic, scientists in different countries have conducted studies on the new type of coronavirus and shared the information obtained from these studies with the rest of the world. Coronaviruses, a very large family of viruses, have caused two major epidemics in previous years known as severe acute respiratory syndrome (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome, SARS) and Middle East respiratory syndrome (Middle East Respiratory Syndrome, MERS). The SARS-CoV-2 virus, called the new type of coronavirus, also caused the COVID-19 pandemic, which has been going on for two years.
HOW DOES SARS-COV-2 CAUSE ILLNESS?
SARS-CoV-2 virus enters human cells and causes infectious disease. To enter human cells, the new type of coronavirus normally binds to the receptors of Angiotensin Converting Enzyme-2 (ACE-2), which is responsible for regulating blood pressure. The virus, which enters the cell through these receptors, tries to reproduce its own genetic material and increase its own number by using the structures and proteins in the cell. In the meantime, the immune system, which senses that a foreign pathogen has entered the body, is activated to destroy the virus. This response created by the immune system causes symptoms of inflammation in patients.
WHAT ARE THE SYMPTOMS OF COVID-19?
Some people infected with the new type of coronavirus survive the disease without showing any symptoms (asymptomatic) or with very mild symptoms. However, in some people, the infection progresses more severely and serious symptoms may occur that threaten the life of the patients.
The symptoms of COVID-19 seen in patients are as follows:
- Shortness of breath,
- Breathing difficulties,
- Muscle and joint pains,
- Trembling ,
- Throat ache,
- Runny nose,
- Skin rash,
- Redness of the eyes, watering.
What Does the Coronavirus Variant Mean?
Coronaviruses are a family of viruses that have been known to exist for many years. Viruses from this family can change over time and cause different disease tables. An example of this situation is that three different types of viruses from the coronavirus family cause epidemics such as SARS, MERS, COVID-19. The SARS-CoV-2 virus, which causes the COVID-19 pandemic, can also change over time to form different subspecies, namely variants.
HOW DOES A NEW VARIANT OCCUR?
Viruses must enter a living cell to reproduce. They cannot reproduce on their own in the external environment. SARS-CoV-2, which enters human cells, reproduces its own genetic material, namely RNA, a molecule similar to DNA, using the proteins in the cell. During the duplication of genetic material, some changes, called mutations, can occur in RNA. While these random changes in RNA sometimes do not cause any change in the virus, they can sometimes increase or decrease the spread potential of the virus and its lethality. The new type of coronavirus has undergone thousands or even millions of different mutations since it was first detected. However, not all of these mutations caused a change in the characteristic features of the virus. Variants such as Alpha, Delta, Omicron known in the community; It is important because it changes the characteristics of the virus such as contagiousness and lethality.
The alpha (B.1.1.7) variant was detected in the southeast of England in late 2020. The mutation in this variant has changed the structure of the S (Spike) protein, which allows the virus to enter the cell. As a result of this change, the alpha variant has become more contagious than the first coronavirus. Because vaccines against COVID-19 target the S protein, the alpha variant is not expected to be resistant to the vaccine.
The beta (B.1.351) variant was first detected in South Africa and Nigeria. The beta variant spread faster than the original virus, but did not aggravate the course of the COVID-19 disease.
The Gamma (P.1) variant was first seen in a person traveling to Japan from Brazil in January 2021. This variant has been suggested to be more contagious than its predecessors. Although it is thought that the gamma variant may be resistant to the vaccine, studies have been conducted showing that the BioNTech/Pfizer vaccine is effective against this variant.
The Delta (B.1.617.2) variant, first detected in India in December 2020, became the subspecies that accounts for the majority of cases worldwide in April 2021. Delta was determined to be approximately 50% more contagious than other variants. Studies have revealed that the BioNTech/Pfizer vaccine is 88% protective against the delta variant two weeks after the second dose.
The Omicron (B.1.1.529) variant was first detected in samples collected on 11 November 2021 in Botswana, a country in South Africa. Experts in South Africa reported the new variant to the World Health Organization on 24 November 2021.
Curious About the Omicron Variant
The Omicron variant spread worldwide from South Africa, where it first appeared, and has influenced millions of people. In our country, the Ministry of Health announced that cases infected with the Omicron variant were detected on 12 December 2021. According to the statement made by the Ministry of Health on December 25, 2021, more than 10% of the cases in crowded provinces are the Omicron variant.
According to the World Health Organization; Although the Omicron variant is thought to be more contagious than other variants, including Delta, more studies are needed on the subject.
Not enough information has yet been collected about how the Omicron variant affects disease severity. An increase in hospitalizations was observed in South Africa, where the variant was first detected. However, it should be noted that this increase may be due to the Omicron variant as well as the increase in the number of infected people. Since it is known that all variants of the new type of coronavirus can become so severe that people die, necessary precautions should be taken against the Omicron variant.
THE EFFECT OF HAVING COVID-19 BEFORE
Information so far indicates that people previously infected with SARS-CoV-2 are at increased risk of being reinfected with the Omicron variant. However, more comprehensive data are needed to confirm this issue.
PROTECTION OF VACCINES
There is not enough data yet on the extent to which vaccines protect against the Omicron variant. However, it is known that vaccines are effective against the Delta variant, which previously accounted for the majority of cases. There is no effective preventive or therapeutic method against COVID-19 other than a vaccine. Therefore, vaccination of the community is the only way to prevent severe illness and death due to COVID-19. In our country, it is important for people who have received two doses of vaccine and 3 months after the second dose, to have the reminder dose to be protected against the Omicron variant.
In order to be protected from the Omicron variant, it is necessary to fully comply with the practices recommended since the beginning of the pandemic. The fact that people spend more time indoors, especially with the cold weather, paves the way for the spread of the virus. In order to prevent this situation, the mask should never be removed in crowded environments. In addition, paying attention to social distance, washing or disinfecting hands frequently also contributes to preventing the spread of the virus. It is very important that people in the risk group get the reminder dose of the vaccine without wasting time.
It is critical for both individual and public health that people with COVID-19 symptoms inform the health units of the situation and take tests by paying attention to the isolation rules, and that people with positive results quarantine themselves for the period specified by the authorized persons. We wish you healthy days.
Source: https://www.medicalpark.com.tr/ Photo: https://www.bbc.com/