A variant of a virus is a strain of the virus that has undergone genetic changes. These changes can be small or large, and they can affect the virus’s ability to spread, cause disease, and evade the immune system.
There are many different variants of the coronavirus that causes COVID-19, SARS-CoV-2. Some of the most common variants include:
- Alpha (B.1.1.7)
- Beta (B.1.351)
- Gamma (P.1)
- Delta (B.1.617.2)
- Omicron (B.1.1.529)
Some variants are more transmissible than others, meaning that they are easier to spread from person to person. Other variants may cause more severe illness, or they may be more likely to evade the immune system.
It is important to note that all viruses mutate over time, and this is normal. However, some variants of SARS-CoV-2 have caused concern because they have mutated in ways that make them more transmissible or more likely to cause severe illness.
The best way to protect yourself from COVID-19, regardless of the variant, is to get vaccinated and boosted. COVID-19 vaccines are highly effective at preventing serious illness, hospitalization, and death from COVID-19, even against the Omicron variant.
Other ways to protect yourself from COVID-19 include:
- Wearing a mask in public indoor settings
- Social distancing
- Washing your hands frequently
- Avoiding close contact with people who are sick
If you are concerned about the variants of SARS-CoV-2, talk to your doctor. They can help you to understand the risks and benefits of vaccination and other preventive measures.