By: Abby Wisniewski
November 13, 2023
For the past three years, the COVID-19 pandemic has seized the news, society and our daily lives. The virus infected tens of millions of people and killed almost seven million worldwide. Yet, today, there’s hardly any precautionary measures being taken to prevent the spread of the virus. This is startling, given that overall cases are on the rise now that a new COVID variant has emerged.
The new BA.2.86 (Pirola) variant is known for its high number of mutations, including its more than 30 mutations to the spike protein of the virus. The spike protein is what allows the virus to attach and infect other cells. These mutations could make the variant better at evading immunity than previous strains.
As a subvariant of Omicron, Pirola is thought to be contagious. Scientists are still unsure about how fast BA.2.86 will spread due to how quickly the variant surfaced. In August, the BA.2.86 variant was found in five states, including Michigan.
“I didn’t know there was even a new variant. You haven’t heard about it, like, at all. The media doesn’t seem to care to inform people,” Grace, a junior at Michigan State University majoring in microbiology, said. “I don’t think that [Michigan State University] is taking it seriously. I don’t think the media is taking it seriously. I do think it’s important that students become knowledgeable about the new variant so that they can protect themselves, whether it be masking or staying at home. If it becomes necessary, getting the new vaccine.”
Along with masking, it is also important to regularly wash your hands, socially distance and stay home when sick to avoid becoming infected or infecting others. With cold and flu season around the corner, these practices can also lower your chances of becoming infected with other seasonal illnesses. If you believe that you may have COVID, visit covid19.gov to find resources for free COVID testing.
The new COVID booster will become widely available in the coming weeks. Many insurance companies will cover the vaccine, and local health departments may offer the vaccine for free for people who are uninsured. Go to vaccines.gov to find out more about where to get the booster for free.
Those with the highest risk of complications from COVID include the very young, the elderly and those with compromised immune systems. To protect yourself and those around you, it’s important to get vaccinated and keep up to date with boosters.
Abby Wisniewski is a senior majoring in Professional and Public Writing with two minors in Spanish and Graphic Design. Upon graduation, she plans to obtain her teaching certificate to become a middle school teacher in Michigan. In her free time, she enjoys painting, baking, and embroidery.