From escape mutations to wild strains: Here’s everything you need to know about Covid variants

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This transmission electron microscope image shows SARS-CoV-2—also known as 2019-nCoV, the virus that causes COVID-19. isolated from a patient in the U.S., emerging from the surface of cells cultured in the lab.

Source: NIAID-RML

Even as global Covid-19 infections drop across the world, leading U.S. health officials are warning of a coming wave of infections as new, more contagious — and possibly more deadly — variants of the virus take hold in the U.S.

Scientists aren’t surprised by the emergence of the new variants and have reiterated that the currently available vaccines should still work against them — albeit, a bit less effective than as against the original, “wild” strain. However, top U.S. health officials and infectious disease experts worry that these highly contagious variants, particularly the B.1.1.7 strain that emerged in the U.K, could reverse the current downward trajectory in infections in the U.S. and delay the country’s recovery from the pandemic.

“I think we should be assuming that the next wave of case growth, to the extent that we have it, is going to be with B.1.1.7, and that’s something that I think everybody has to be even more cautious about,” Andy Slavitt, White House Covid-19 senior adviser, told MSNBC last week…

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