If you keep even half an eye on the news you’ll notice lots of talk about COVID variants – from Delta to Lambda and everything in between!

But what are variants? And what do they mean for us in the battle against COVID?

COVID variants explained…

The COVID virus mutates over time, naturally evolving and changing in genetic structure. In most cases these changes are innocuous and we don’t need to worry about them. But sometimes the mutations can cause concern, either because they can make the virus more adept at evading antibodies or because they become better at infecting cells.

Many of us became more aware of the issue of variants when the media covered the emergence of the Kent variant in late 2020. Fast forward 8 months and the Delta variant is the one that is currently causing the most concern, and we’re also keeping a close eye on Beta that seems to be rising significantly in France.

The big worry is that not only is the variant much more transmissible, but that our existing vaccinations are no longer effective against it.

The UK is at the forefront of variant detection

Our scientists here in the UK have been at the vanguard of variant detection since the pandemic began. The Covid-19 Genomics Consortium (Cog-UK) has now sequenced over 600,000 positive COVID-19 tests, providing ‘invaluable data’ in the fight against the virus.

This data not only provides information on community transmission and outbreaks, but it will also enable the evaluation of novel treatments and non-pharmacological interventions in the future.

The Delta variant and long COVID

Unfortunately there is a very real risk that a surge in this worrisome Delta variant will lead to an increase in the number of people with long COVID. This raises the risk of younger people – many of whom are yet to be vaccinated – becoming COVID long haulers.

There is mounting evidence from multiple countries that suggests that a significant number of people who get COVID – whether they know they are infected or not – are at risk of developing longer-term illness. The virus seems to disturb parts of the immune system in a similar way to glandular fever. This then triggers the creation of rogue antibodies known as “autoantibodies” that fail to fight the virus and turn on the body instead.

The problem with long COVID

A recent study revealed that a third of people with COVID have struggled with at least one symptom for longer than 12 weeks. For these long COVID sufferers tiredness was one of the most common symptoms, and in people who were severely ill with Covid, shortness of breath was a dominant long-lasting symptom.

We have a specialist COVID rehabilitation service here at Air Physiotherapy to help support patients as they recover. Browse our blogs that have advice on the common issues people are experiencing with long COVID – from why you need to think of your long COVID recovery in terms of recharging a battery to why pacing is important and how to pace yourself as you recover, what you should do if you’re feeling breathless and how Air Physiotherapy can support you throughout the process.

Please email hello@airphysiotherapy.co.uk if you’d like to find out more or book your first appointment online.