What risks do the individual variants of the coronavirus pose?

B.1.1.7 – the British virus variant

B.1.1.7 is more easily transmitted from person to person, this variant is more infectious and can spread faster than the wild-type virus. Due to this higher reproduction number, the spread of the variant is also more difficult to contain, according to the website of the German Robert Koch Institute (RKI). The easier transferability of the variant can be a danger, because: “If you bear in mind that more infections then lead to exponentially more severe courses and more deaths, it is more dangerous,” said Bergthaler.

The British variant is currently seeing a doubling of the proportion every two to four weeks in Austria, says complexity researcher Peter Klimek from the Complexity Science Hub (CSH) to KURIER: “This variant has already taken over the infection process in the eastern federal states.” According to Ages, there are 1,096 confirmed cases of the variant in Austria. A small – and not yet controlled – study from Harvard provided initial indications why this variant could be more contagious: The British variant is not more contagious because infected people have a higher viral load, but because they have this relatively high viral load for significantly longer. So the cause is not the amount of viruses, but the number of days on which an affected person is contagious.

At the beginning, experts assumed that B.1.1.7 was more contagious, but the pathogenicity – i.e. the severity of the disease process – does not differ from the wild type. That is no longer so clear. “With limited data, there are indications that it could be associated with increased case mortality,” writes the German Robert Koch Institute.

A subtype of B.1.1.7 has now also been discovered in Great Britain. The infamous mutation E484K was also discovered in this variant, initially it was not present there. This mutation in particular is a cause for concern for experts; more on this under the other variants.

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