, The virus that causes COVID 19 keeps changing.. There are a bunch of new versions and theyre more contagious. Ones hit the UK hard and is spreading around the world.. There are others in South Africa, Brazil, Nigeria too., But should we be worried? So how big a problem are these mutations? Will the vaccines still work And the big question many of us want answered? When will this all end 2020 gave us the kind of pandemic? No one alive today had ever seen. Before. A year later, 2021 is starting out with the same pandemic. Only now its on steroids.. One reason is: there are new versions of the virus., But scientists say thats, not exactly a surprise. Viruses mutate, all the time. It’s, just what they do.. Viruses usually spread within species animal to animal person to person., But sometimes they mutate and do things like jump. The species barrier, say. Thats. What happened with swine flu MERS and this one SARS CoV 2., A virus exists to replicate, evolve and spread., And it does that by hijacking a cells reproductive system to make copies of itself, so it can spread to other cells and on to other hosts. And as It gets copied over and over again. Sometimes there are mistakes., Think of them as typos.. Those changes are called mutations., But every now and then a mutation comes along. That makes the virus better at what it does.. The key is opportunity.. For example, healthy people have immune systems that fight the virus, for maybe a couple of weeks.

, But people who are already really sick with weak immune systems could play host to the virus for much longer.. It gives the virus more time to mutate. Thats what they think happened with these new strains. In the UK. A single variant of the virus, known as B.1.1.7, has 23 mutations.. It showed up in September 2020. And according to the World Health Organization, they think it could be about 70, more contagious than the original Wuhan strain. Lets. Look at it. This way using whats called the reproduction number.. This coronavirus was known to spread from one person to two to three other people on average.. The R number was between 2.5 and 3.5. Thats without things like social, distancing and lockdowns to control the spread.. With those measures the R number came down. The virus was infecting. Maybe just one other person or fewer, which is enough to stall the spread.. But then this new UK strain showed up and pushed the R number back up to as high as 1.7. And this strain has travelled.. But there are other strains too. Its important to point out, though, that while these new strains might be easier to catch, the WHO says the data coming out of the UK so far suggests no change in disease severity or in the number of people. Dying.. Ok, heres. The next question. Will the vaccines still work on those mutated viruses. Well, the WHO says right now. The answer is yes. Still its not impossible that more genetic changes down the line mean we need to tweak the vaccines.

Its. Why scientists around the world have been keeping an eye on how this virus is changing. Theyve done more than 300000 gene sequences of the virus since the pandemic began.. So there is a strategy to track and deal with mutations., But the WHO says that if anything, the mutations are a wake up, call. And that its up to us individuals and governments to do what we can to stop the virus from spreading and mutating. In the first place. Look at what happened at the end of the year. People travelled, they spent time with friends and families all against health advice., And what does all of this mean for the end of the pandemic? Well, right now, the plan is still to vaccinate as many people as possible to build immunity as fast as possible. Even though vaccines can only do so, much. Scientists knew the coronavirus was going to evolve from the get go., But the health advice to sit tight and stay safe, that hasnt changed. And for those of us who want a hard and fast answer on when thisll all Be over well the WHO says anybody who gives you a date: theyd only be guessing.. As with every story about the coronavirus, the experts are still trying to work out. The science. And the journalists well were trying to make sense of it too. And stay as accurate as possible., So make sure to visit trusted sources to get health advice and information stay safe and Ill.