By Dr. Zulfikar Bux
Assistant Professor of Emergency Medicine
Scientists have found that the coronavirus has mutated and it is spreading more rapidly than previously. They are calling it the D614G mutation and this has made the virus more efficient and effective at binding onto our cells. The studies have found that this strain of the virus began spreading in Europe in February 2020 and became the dominant strain around the world by May 2020. It is now found in the Middle East, India, Iran and Brazil. What is more alarming, is that they found this new strain in 70 percent of the samples that were sequenced in North America and Europe. Given the potency of this strain, we need to be even more cautious in Guyana. Today I will explain what this new mutation means for us in Guyana and how we should respond to this new information.
WHAT ARE VIRAL MUTATIONS?
Mutations are an integral part of the cycle of viruses. As time progresses, viruses will naturally change their structure. This change in structure is called a mutation and it can make them weaker or stronger against their host (human beings in this case). This new coronavirus mutation is called the D614G mutation because scientist found that there was a structural change occurring on the 614th position of the protein binding site of the original coronavirus that started the Pandemic.
WHAT DOES THIS MEAN?
Unfortunately, the structural change in the coronavirus called the D614G mutation, has made it more potent for now and it has led to a surge in cases of COVID-19 worldwide. This strain of the virus spreads more easily and is responsible for the recent rapid spread of new cases in the US. What is more alarming, is patients that were previously infected, are now getting re-infected with this new strain of virus. Scientists are hoping that this strain will mutate into a weaker form in the near future before it causes worldwide devastation.
Will this affect us in Guyana?
While it seems that we were lucky and would have been exposed to a weaker strain of the virus in Guyana, I am worried for us given this new development. This new strain is very close to us in Brazil. We have heard about the devastation it is causing there. There has been a recent upsurge in cases in Guyana which has been more rapid than usual. This upsurge has been more noticeable in the hinterland regions. My biggest worry is that this new strain of virus has made it across from Brazil and is responsible for the recent surge in cases in our hinterland regions. While this is only a theory, I cannot come up with another explanation for the recent rapid surge in cases in the hinterland especially given the slow nature of spread along the coast where our population is denser.
OUR BEHAVIORAL PATTERNS WILL SHAPE OUR DESTINY
I cannot continue to emphasize how important it is to practice preventative measures. By now most should be aware of preventative measures such as staying at home, social distancing, mask wearing for all and practicing good hygiene. Unfortunately, while these preventative measures are widely known, they are not widely practiced. Many of us still choose to be irresponsible and put ourselves and others at risk. It doesn’t matter if the virus has become stronger, once we practice preventative measures, we will be able to curb its spread.
Our country has been plunged into a political crisis and it is negatively impacting livelihoods. We all need to put Guyana first as it is the only way we can all benefit. I am therefore urging our leaders to behave responsibly and encourage their support network to do the same. Positive change cannot be effected if our leaders are not practicing and advocating for what is best for our country. So today, I am calling out all leaders: Be responsible and encourage your followers to be responsible. Let us fight this pandemic together! Let us do what is best for Guyana while we still have time.
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