Covid-19 Glossary How What Strain, Variants, Mutation Mean

Covid-19 Glossary: How What Strain, Variants, Mutation Mean?

Last Updated: 22nd April, 2021

Covid-19 Glossary: Quarantine, isolation, social distancing, mutation, variants, strain, and several other terms were added to our dictionary by Covid-19. You must understand exactly what most of these terms mean, despite more than a year of the pandemic and for the New 2nd Covid-19 Wave (SARS-CoV-2, the pre-existing virus that causes COVID-19) in India and worldwide.

Nevertheless, the most recent words included in the COVID-19 glossary, such as strain, variants, and others, are still relatively new to us. Understanding the context of these terms is important not just because they’ve become ingrained in our way of life, but also because understanding them inside and out will help prevent needless anxiety and panic.

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Let’s Deep-Dive Into The COVID-19 Glossary

1. Antibody: When you contract an infection, your immune system produces certain protective proteins that fight the pathogen and assist you recover from the infection. These proteins are called antibodies. Broadly speaking, producing antibodies against an infection-causing pathogen provides immunity against subsequent infections.

2. Anosmia: The partial or absolute loss of smell is termed as anosmia. This inability to smell might be temporary or permanent and can occur due to a range of causes. It is one of the most commonly observed symptoms of COVID-19 infection. Patients usually recover from this symptom gradually.

3. Comorbidities: In general, this term means having two or more health conditions simultaneously. People having any pre-existing health conditions like asthma, diabetes, hypertension are said to have comorbid conditions or comorbidities.

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4. Cytokine Storm in COVID-19: Cytokines are hormone-like protective proteins or molecules released by your immune system while fighting a germ or injury. These external stimuli initiate inflammation and work as a messenger that signals the body’s cells about the ongoing infection. Off and on, the immune system loses control and overreacts to an external stimulus (germ, etc.). An abundant amount of cytokines is released that starts destroying healthy cells too. Many people with severe COVID-19 were observed to have developed such hyperimmune responses while fighting COVID-19 disease.

5. Emergency Use Authorization: In India, a national regulatory authority, CDSCO (Central Drugs Standard Control Organization), checks whether a vaccine, medicine, etc. is safe for the public, following which they receive the authorization for public use. Generally, this entire testing, checking, and the authorizing process requires several years to accomplish.

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However, in case of public emergencies like the ongoing pandemic, the authority can approve the use of medical interventions, including medicines, therapies, vaccines, etc. if there is sufficient evidence of its safety and efficacy. Such approval is called emergency use authorization. In India, as per the New Drugs and Clinical Trials Rules, 2019, such a process is known as an accelerated approval process.

6. Face Covering: Face coverings can be easily made at home from clothes. They are also known as cloth masks and help cover the mouth and nose. Covering your nose and mouth helps defend you and others against the infected droplets that a person produces when he/she talks, coughs, or sneezes. Other than face coverings, you may equally use medical masks or valveless anti-pollution masks (masks that don’t have a valve).

7. Hand Hygiene: It refers to the act of washing your hands frequently with soap and water or sanitizing them with an alcohol-based hand rub. The SARS-CoV-2 virus can stay active on surfaces for hours. Contacting those surfaces and then touching your eyes, nose, and mouth can spread the infection. Practicing hand hygiene before touching your face ensures that your hands are free of the virus. Along with maintaining hand hygiene, you must on top wear a face mask and practice social distancing to stay safe from the virus.

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8. Infodemic: It’s a blend of two words: information and epidemic. It refers to the spread of incorrect and inauthentic information that may provoke anxiety and panic among people. This is not an unfamiliar term, but its prevalence soared during the pandemic when random, fake WhatsApp messages, social media forwards around COVID-19, new symptoms, magic remedies, vaccines, and more started making rounds. This made it hard for people to differentiate between rumors and facts. Since myths are inevitably around us, make sure to check for facts from authentic sources like MoHFW and WHO.

9. Mutation: The term mutation sounds scary, but actually viruses undergo mutations naturally and constantly, especially the ones that have RNA as genetic material like coronavirus. All viruses contain either RNA or DNA. These genetic materials are preserved with a covering of protein. When the virus enters your body, it attaches itself to one of your cells and starts replicating itself.

From time to time, there’s an error in this replication process. This is called a mutation. Usually, these minor mutations can even weaken the virus. But, sometimes, the mutation may make it easier for the virus to replicate and spread.

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10. Vaccine: It is a biological product that enables your body to develop immunity against a particular germ without developing any sickness. They are the most prudent way to defend the population against infectious diseases. Vaccines are of many types and are typically administered through injections, but some vaccines may be given by the nose or mouth.

11. Variants: As per the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, a new virus variant possesses one or more mutations that differentiate it from the parent-type or predominant virus already circulating among the general population.

What Is The Differentiation Between A Variant And A Strain?

The term strain is only appropriate when referring to the novel coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2, the pre-existing virus that causes COVID-19) – this strain belongs to the wider coronavirus family, including Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) and the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) viruses. Hence, SARS-Cov-2 is a single strain, and there are multiple variants of that strain (E484K, N440K, etc.). These represent variants. Read more in details here.

Now that you’ve revamped your COVID-19 glossary, keep in mind that the pandemic is still spreading. Therefore, even though you’ve received the vaccine, wear a mask, keep your hands clean and maintain a space of at least 6 feet between you and others as you return to work. If you do not maintain these instructions, you may become infected with the SARS-CoV-2 virus. Keep yourself healthy. Maintain a safe lifestyle.

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