2. Why are variants concerning? Most of those mutations don’t matter much — either they don’t give the virus any new advantage or they disadvantage the virus, so they disappear quickly. But occasionally a variant emerges that’s better adapted to help the virus survive, perhaps by making it more infectious or more easily transmissible. Those are referred to as variants of concern.
3. If you get sick, can you tell if you have the original COVID-19 strain or a variant? As of yet, a patient or clinician can’t diagnose a variant case of COVID-19 based on symptoms or how the illness presents. Samples of the virus must be tested to determine whether the infection was caused by the original version or a new strain.
4. How can variants be prevented or mitigated? Medical experts say the same public health tools used to fight the original virus strain — masking, social distancing and vaccinating — can decrease transmission of variants of concern and help prevent new ones from emerging.