Health & Fit What to Know About the New R.1 COVID-19 Variant
Your Pressing COVID-19 Delta Variant Questions, Answered by an Epidemiologist
Headlines are scary, but just how worried should you actually be?To help you navigate the ever-shifting pandemic landscape, Timothy Brewer, MD, professor of medicine and epidemiology at UCLA, has answered some of the most pressing present-day concerns around the virus and safety. Keep reading to hear his take on what the Delta variant means for your health, your summer plans, and America's overall pandemic recovery.
Just when you thought there just could not possibly be another coronavirus variant, reports about a new guy in town — the R.1 variant — start swirling. And while the Delta variant continues to be the most prominent strain across the globe, R.1 appears to have "mutations of importance," according to the— one of which, the organization notes, "demonstrates evidence of increasing virus transmissibility." Meaning, it might be more easily spread — read: infectious — than previous strains. As of now, however, the CDC has not listed R.1 under its or (which include strains such as Delta, which have evidence of increased transmissibility, more severe disease, and reduced effectiveness in vaccines).
What is the Delta-Plus Variant? Here's What We Know So Far About the COVID Strain
Public health officials are keeping tabs on this new mutation of the Delta variant. COVID-19 variants can come and go. So is Delta-plus a mutation to worry about? Here's what we know so far. What is Delta-plus? Human coronaviruses are named for the crown-like spikes that surround the virus. SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, is no exception. It's covered in spike proteins that help the virus enter healthy cells. The Delta-plus variant carries a specific spike-protein mutation called K417N.
Just like with the, developments about R.1 are still ongoing. In the meantime, here's a breakdown of what's currently known about the latest variant to make headlines.
When and Where Did the R.1 Variant Originate?
Despite its recent rise in so-called fame, the R.1 variant has been around for quite some time. It was first detected in Japan last year and has since made its way to other countries, including the U.S., where it accounts for less than 0.5 percent of cases, according to Charlene Brown, M.D., Ph.D., public health physician and advisor for, an at-home health testing company.
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What's more, an April 2021from the CDC suggests that the mutation is partially responsible for an outbreak at a Kentucky nursing home in March 2021. Many of the 46 residents and health care workers infected were already vaccinated, according to , thereby suggesting that this evolved virus might be more likely to cause breakthrough infections than previous mutations. (See: )
Is the R.1 Variant More Contagious?
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It remains to be seen if the R.1 variant spreads more or less rapidly than other strains of COVID-19. And while it does seem to have mutations that might affect people differently than previous variants, "there is no sign that it will overtake the Delta variant's dominance," says Dr. Brown. Still, Dr. Brown does concede that the R.1 variant "is probably more contagious than some other strains of COVID-19 we have encountered." That's because, according to the, the strain seems to have the D614G mutation "that shows evidence of increased transmissibility," she explains.
What Is the C.1.2 COVID-19 Variant?
Although the Delta variant's captured seemingly everyone’s attention, researchers are keeping an eye on an emerging COVID-19 variant from South AfricaA pre-print study posted on medRxiv last week (that has not yet been peer-reviewed) detailed how the C.1.2 variant evolved from C.1, the strain behind the first wave of SARS-CoV-2 infections (the virus that causes COVID-19) in South Africa. The C.1 strain was last detected in South Africa in January of this year, according to the report, with the C.1.2 strain appearing in the country in May.
What Are the Symptoms of the R.1 Variant?
The symptoms of the R.1 variant don't seem to be unique or new compared to what we've seen with other COVID strains. "While respiratory illness is quite common, many patients have presented with gastrointestinal, neurological, or other symptoms [as well]," says, physician and medical researcher. "Thus far it appears that R.1 does not differ substantively in the range of signs and symptoms compared to other common variants."
Translation? Like other strains of COVID-19, the R.1 variant may manifest as a fever, chills, cough, shortness of breath, loss of taste and/or smell, headache, body and muscle aches, as well as diarrhea or vomiting — or any combination thereof. (Related:)
How Can You Protect Yourself Against the R.1 Variant?
In a word:.
"The unvaccinated individual is at the greatest risk if exposed to any COVID-19 variant, including the R.1 variant," explains Dr. Brown. "In the nursing home outbreak in Kentucky, unvaccinated residents were. The majority of hospitalizations and deaths were among those who were unvaccinated. That's why vaccination is the number one tool in our arsenal when fighting this pandemic and all its variants."(Related: )
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Prioritize it above all else.
Dr. Ulm agrees: "It's best to think of vaccination and masking as being akin to body armor," he says. "The armor isn't perfect, and it can be chipped off and damaged, but it's still better to have additional plates on your protective shell than to be without them and, where necessary, to replace the armor (e.g.,) in cases where this has been confirmed to be important."
Whether or not the R.1 variant becomes more widespread in the U.S., it remains important to do what you can to protect yourself — and others — against all COVID strains. Keep, practicing good germ hygiene, and, of course, getting vaccinated if and when you're eligible.
The information in this story is accurate as of press time. As updates about coronavirus COVID-19 continue to evolve, it's possible that some information and recommendations in this story have changed since initial publication. We encourage you to check in regularly with resources such as the, the , and your local public health department for the most up-to-date data and recommendations.
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