What you need to know about the coronavirus variants
March 17, 2021

Viruses are always mutating and taking on new forms. The coronavirus has thousands of variants that have been identified. But several, including variants first found in the United Kingdom, South Africa and Brazil, are highly transmissible and have sparked concerns that vaccines may be less effective against them.

The same protective measures that have warded off the virus throughout the pandemic — maintaining social distance, wearing masks and washing our hands — are even more critical in the face of more transmissible variants.

The South Africa variant (B.1.351)
Where and when was it discovered?
This mutation, also referred to as 501Y.V2, was found in South Africa in early October and announced in December, when the country’s health minister said the strain seemed to affect young people more than previous strains. This variant may have contributed to a surge of infections and hospitalizations across South Africa.

Where is it?
This mutation has been identified in more than two dozen countries, including Canada, Australia and Israel. On Jan. 28, South Carolina officials announced that this variant had affected two people there with no travel history — the first instances of this strain identified in the United States. It has since been found in at least nine other states.