COVID-19, a respiratory disease caused by the novel coronavirus, since its emergence slightly over a year ago in Wuhan, Hubei Province, China, has not just claimed lives; it has left nations hanging on the skin of their teeth.
Coronaviruses are a large family of viruses that cause mild colds to severe infections like the Secure Acute Respiratory Syndrom (SARS-COV) outbreak in 2003 and the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS-COV).
Generally, coronaviruses are zoonotic, that is, they jump from animals to humans. While investigations revealed that SARS-COV and MERS-COV were transmitted to humans by civet cats and dromedary camels respectively, that of COVID-19 is still a puzzle that scientists are trying to solve.
Current data shows that over 87.2 million people have been infected with COVID-19. While 48.8 million persons have recovered, over 1.88 million lives have been lost to the virus.
Even as the world tries to keep up with the common safety guidelines like regular handwashing, good respiratory hygiene, maintaining physical distance and cooking meals properly, there emerging facts that you probably do not know about the virus.
Below are some emerging facts:
We are experiencing a second wave
After countries relaxed lockdowns, reopened schools/businesses, and several vaccines showing promising results, there was a sigh of relief that the virus was going to check out soon. However, that is not the case as there is still a surge in infections. Nigeria recorded its highest daily of over 1600 cases on Wednesday, and there is a possibility that the numbers will keep increasing.
There are two new deadly strains of the virus
We know that there is a pandemic, however, it has worsened with the emergence of two new strains – one in the United Kingdom and the other in South Africa.
The UK variant, which emerged before Christmas, is estimated to be 70% more than contagious than others and it is responsible for the surging infections and COVID-19-associated deaths.
Another deadly strain, officially called 501Y.V2, has also been discovered in South Africa. This makes them the first in Africa to record over one million infections and 30,000 deaths.
These new variants have shown multiple mutations inside the coronavirus at the same time, with the South African strain exhibiting substantial changes in the structure of its protein (the spike).
There are fears that the South African strain may be more devastating than the UK variant.
Britain’s Health Secretary Matt Hancock told the BBC, “I’m incredibly worried about the South African variant. This is a very, very significant problem… and it’s even more of a problem than the U.K. new variant.”
There is a question mark on the efficacy of COVID-19 vaccines
While two vaccines – the PfizerNBiotech and Moderna – have been recommended and approved for use against COVID-19, scientists are still not sure if they are effective against these mutant variants. However, a study related to this question is underway.
“Vaccine efficacy is clearly one of the big questions that arise from discovering these new variables, and we understand everybody wants answers immediately,” Richard Lessells, an infectious-disease specialist at the University of KwaZulu-Natal, told Bloomberg.
Individuals with blood group A may be more susceptible to being infected
A significant proportion of individuals with blood group A were found to be infected in a 2020 Chinese study involving 2,173 individuals hospitalized with COVID-19. The same study showed that individuals with the O blood group were relatively few.
A similar study in Italy and Spain also showed that COVID-19 patients with Blood group A were like to suffer respiratory failure.
While a cure for the treatment of COVID-19 has not been discovered, it is the responsibility of individuals to protect themselves by employing non-pharmaceutical interventions like regular hand washing, keeping physical and social distance and staying at home if sick.