Covid-19: Symptoms, vaccines and peril of the English Variant in Italy

Symptoms, vaccines and peril of the English Variant: some common questions answered

According to a study, it is 30 to 50% more contagious and has a 30 to 70% higher mortality rate.  From symptoms to vaccines, here are some answers to frequently asked questions about the covid variant.

What is the English variant of covid?

The English variant of Covid-19, denoted 20B/501YD1 or B.1.1.7, is characterized by 23 mutations, 14 of which are located on the Spike protein of the virus.

When did this first appear?

It first appeared in Britain in September and was reported in mid-December 2020.  So far, it has been identified in 33 countries, including Italy.

Does the mutation make the virus more contagious?

The mutation detected in position 501 of the Spike protein makes the virus 30% to 50% more contagious than "other unconcerned variants" in circulation, and could have a 30% to 70% higher mortality rate.  That's what the study compiled by the New and Emerging Respiratory Virus Threats Advisory Group (NEVRTAG), the British expert group assisting the government in managing the pandemic, indicates.

Does it also increase mortality?

Analyzing data from 12 independent studies conducted in the United Kingdom on the English variant, denoted B.1.1.7, the expert panel notes that the data are not definitive and will need to be further analyzed because significant differences exist between studies.  In any case, they note, "these analyses indicate that variant B.1.1.7 is probably associated with an increased risk of hospitalization and death compared with coronavirus infection not due to variant B.1.1.7."  To date, the cause of the allegedly higher lethality of the English variant is unknown, but hypotheses include a higher viral load in infected patients.

How widespread is it in Italy?

The English variant is now widespread in most of the Italian territory, at least in 88% of the regions according to the results of the rapid survey conducted on February 4 and 5 by the Istituto Superiore di Sanità (Iss) and the Ministry of Health.

In which regions is the variant most widespread?

In Italy, some local outbreaks have developed especially in Abruzzo (over 50% prevalence), Lombardy (estimated to represent 30% of positives), Veneto (20% of swabs), Puglia (15.5% of cases), Umbria and Molise.  And in other regions but with more sporadic cases.

Are the symptoms the same?

Yes, the symptoms are the same as Covid-19 without mutations

Are vaccines effective against variants?

The first studies emerging show that Pfizer, Moderna and Astrazeneca vaccines work against this particular variant.