Just like other viruses, the Covid-19 virus is constantly changing. Its genetic code is prone to changes called mutations that can change how a virus looks or affects its hosts. Now, scientists are watching over a new coronavirus variant; the Lambda variant and here’s what you need to know about it.
We have a countless number of cases around the world since the first case of Covid-19 last November 2019 in China. Moreover, the Covid-19 has developed new mutations. For the past years, the World Health Organization (WHO) announced the different variants which spread noticeably. These variants include Alpha also identified as B.1.1.7, first confirmed in Kent, England; the Beta variant or B.1. 351 dominated from South Africa; the Gamma variant is also known as P.1 from Brazil, and the COVID-19 Delta Variant also referred to as B.1.617.2 which was primarily identified in India in December 2020,
Why are there different variants?
Variants happen when a virus mutates. It is when viruses replicate and multiply quickly, and each round of replication can produce new mutations. The mutations are what make the viruses create different variants, while some mutations can make the virus stronger some have no effect at all. When the mutations have stronger effects it became easier for them to infect more people. Some mutations can make the immune system respond to it slowly or no response at all.
The World Health Organization (WHO) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) are keeping an eye on these variants. There are different variant classifications which are “variants of concern”, “variants of interest”, and “variant of high consequence.”
A variant of interest is a developing variant that is contributing to COVID cases. It becomes a variant of concern when it transmits rapidly from one person to another and is more likely to cause more serious disease and effects to its host. The variant of high consequence is when the virus causes severe effects to its host and could cause alarming clinical diseases. It is also possible that vaccines could be less effective to this type of variant. Currently, there are no recorded variants that rise to the level of high consequence.
What is Lambda Variant?
The World Health Organization (WHO) classified Lambda as a variant of interest. The lambda variant is also known as C.37. It is closely related to the Delta variant because of its similar properties. Lambda is first recorded in South America specifically in Peru. Now, the Lambda variant is rapidly transmitted in more than 30 other countries, this includes Argentina, Chile, Ecuador, Brazil, Colombia, U.S, Canada, Germany, Spain, Israel, France, U.K., and Zimbabwe, among others.
What are the symptoms of the Lambda variant?
Everyone must be mindful of the possible symptoms of the lambda variant. Although the symptoms are not all that different than the other variants. Some symptoms are fever, dry cough, and fatigue. While, there are less common symptoms such as aches and pains, Sore throat, diarrhea, conjunctivitis, headache, loss of taste or smell, a rash on the skin, or discoloration of fingers or toes. These symptoms might not be visible to every suspected patient it is significant to get tested if necessary.
Is the COVID-19 vaccine effective against the Lambda variant?
Covid vaccines are proven to be effective to prevent severe illnesses, however, when it comes to the lambda variant there is no enough evidence that vaccines could be effective against it. Since this is a new variant, further studies should be done.
Although there are high vaccination rates in South America it is still a big question for people regarding the effectiveness of covid vaccines. While Chinese vaccines such as Sinopharm and Sinovac are distributed predominantly in regions cases related to Lambda have increased notably. Having said that, studies are needed regarding the effectiveness of western vaccines such as Pfizer–BioNTech, Moderna, or AstraZeneca against the lambda variant. By contrast, these assumptions are still on the table for discussion.
However, these instances do not change the fact that covid vaccines are safe and effective.
Philippines’ first case of Lambda variant
Surprisingly, the Philippines have already recorded its first case of Lambda variant. The Department of Health (DOH) confirmed that the first Lambda variant case is a local case.
As per DOH, the Philippines’ first Lambda case is a 35-year-old female from Western Visayas. The DOH, however, has yet to determine the history of exposure of the said patient. According to Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire, the woman tested positive for COVID-19 on July 22. She was asymptomatic and has already recovered after undergoing the 10-day isolation period. They later found out that the patient got a lambda variant. The DOH also highlighted that most of the variants of concern and variants of interest are mostly from out of the country and there is a possibility that the virus mutates within the country. On contrary, according to some infectious disease experts, the lambda variant cases in the whole world are already decreasing.
Nonetheless, the DOH assured its backtracking and investigations. Isolations and protocols are strictly imposed too. As of now, the country’s primary threat is the Delta variant because of its rapid transmissions.
While there are additional cases of the other variant in the country, the DOH is still on track on these cases. As of August 29, 2021, there are 1,935,700 total confirmed cases in the country. While 142,679 are the active cases, 1,760,013 have recovered and there are 33,008 total recorded deaths according to DOH Covid-19 Tracker.
What can you do to lower your risk of exposure to the Lambda variant?
Scientists theorize that the Lambda variant does not spread as quickly as other variants, in light of the instances that there are recorded community transmissions. While there is one reported case of Lambda variant in the Philippines, there are safety measures that should be kept in mind to prevent rapid transmissions.
It is necessary that if covid related symptoms are noticed, be responsible enough to self-quarantine and get tested if necessary.
2. Social distancing
Keeping distance away from others is also significant. Avoid attending social gatherings and if possible just stay at home.
3. Wash hands regularly
Washing hands regularly and having a neat environment is also a preventive measure.
4. Avoid touching faces
Because the virus could easily enter the body through the eyes, nose, and mouth. Avoid contact with frequently touched surfaces in public areas such as handrails, doorknobs, elevator buttons, and the like that could possibly filled with viruses.
5. Take vitamins
Taking vitamins and supplements could make the immune system stronger.
6. Wear your face mask properly
Moreover, wearing a proper mask especially when outdoor will not just keep you safe but also other people. Following the protocols that are imposed is significant too.
7. Get vaccinated
Most importantly, get vaccinated because the available vaccine is the best vaccine
Who are at higher risk of getting COVID-19?
People of any age are at risk of getting the virus if not practicing safety and preventive measures. Risks are even higher for older people. Children, pregnant, the immunocompromised, and people with other health conditions are also vulnerable from getting the virus.
The virus could also affect unvaccinated people which could have a higher risk of getting severe symptoms. During this public health crisis, it is critical to protect every individual from becoming infected.
The Bottom line
Regardless of the variants’ classification, it is important to be conscious of health and the environment. It is necessary to always put into practice the safety and preventive measures, through this way it could lessen the risk of acquiring the virus. Although there is a huge possibility that this virus could mutate more and this indicate that the covid cases could fluctuate. Flattening the curve should be a collective effort of every individual.
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Written by Lysandra Faye Batac