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DONNIE JOHNSTON: Coronavirus just keeps on mutating

DONNIE JOHNSTON: Coronavirus just keeps on mutating

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THE CORONAVIRUS that causes COVID has mutated again.

By now, I’m sure that everyone is aware that medical experts have identified a new variant they named omicron. It first appeared in Southern Africa and has now been detected in Europe, Canada and the United States.

This new variant should come as no surprise, because mutation is the key to a virus’ success. Like any living thing, a virus must adapt or become extinct.

Animals and plants may take thousands of generations to mutate because their lifespans are measured in years. The lifespan of a virus is measured in days, so it may produce numerous generations in a month or a year, thus making adaptations and mutations possible in a much shorter span of time.

Some scientists speculate that coronaviruses have been around for millions of years, far longer than humans. Over that period, they have likely mutated innumerable times and they will likely continue to do so.

Given all this, it seems unlikely that we will eradicate COVID or any of its variants. Whatever steps we take to get rid of the virus will likely be met with a mutation that will protect the virus, at least to some degree, from our attacks.

Like the common cold, which is also a virus, COVID is likely to be around in some form forever. Unless there is a dramatic scientific breakthrough, the virus is not going away.

So we must learn to live with it and expect new mutations as time passes. Like the common cold or the flu, COVID in some form may just have to become part of our lives.

As President Biden said earlier this week, the omicron mutant is a cause for concern but not a cause for panic. At this point, there are many unknowns, including its rate of transmissibility and its resistance to vaccines. And it likely will take weeks if not months to get a handle on this most recent mutation.

But as Biden said, we can’t panic every time a new mutation is discovered.

The president also assured Americans that he is not considering a lockdown such as the one in 2020 that so damaged our economy. He and leading medical experts have also stated that vaccinations are still the best combatant in this fight against COVID and its variants.

A golfing friend told me earlier this week that his immediate family, as well as members of his extended family who were visiting for a bridal shower, all recently tested positive for COVID. All were fully vaccinated and the worst symptoms anyone had were sniffles and low-grade fevers that were short-lived.

Vaccinations appear to work against COVID-19 and hopefully it will be effective, at least to some extent, against mutations that turn up.

Still, as with flu viruses that mutate from year to year, the COVID vaccine may have to be tweaked from time to time and an upgraded vaccination administered.

At some point, we will reach “herd immunity” or the virus will mutate into a form that may not be as potentially deadly. Remember that the flu claims as many as 100,000 lives each year, so there will always be some virus out there that will attack the weak.

With the majority of Americans now vaccinated, hopefully the worst is over. Those who have had their shots and those who have had the virus should have built up some immunity by now, so if they catch COVID it hopefully will result in little more than the sniffles my friend and his family experienced.

It has now been two years since the first COVID cases were detected in China and since that initial outbreak the United States—and the world—has been dragged through the wringer. We have learned a lot about this virus, but there is more to learn. Hopefully modern medicine will stay on top of any mutation that turns up.

As Biden said, let’s be concerned but let’s not panic. COVID is not going away. Let’s just take precautions and go on with our lives.

(Note: There were several inaccuracies in last Saturday’s column, for which I take full responsibility. The Black man shot by police was paralyzed, not killed, and Kyle Rittenhouse obtained a gun after crossing state lines, not before.)

Donnie Johnston:


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