Last Updated: January 3, 2022
Variants have been identified in many countries around the world. Certain variant strains are known as variants of concern because they spread more easily than other strains, meaning they are more contagious. These new variants may also cause more severe illness. The increased spread of COVID-19 results in more illness, hospitalizations and deaths.
Variant strains are expected to continue to be identified in the future. International scientific and public health communities continue to work to understand the biological significance of these strains, including how current vaccines may help protect against them.
Several variant strains of COVID-19 have been identified in Alberta.
What We Know
Variants now make up the majority of COVID-19 cases in Alberta. Alberta is monitoring for variant strains of COVID-19 that have a higher infection rate. Refer to Alberta Health for the latest case numbers.
- First identified in South Africa
- The Omicron variant is the dominant strain in Alberta.
- Early evidence suggests there may be an increased risk of transmission and reinfection with this variant, so people who have been previously infected with COVID-19 could be reinfected more easily. There is no evidence of increased disease severity yet. However, evidence is still emerging.
- First identified in the United Kingdom.
- Research has shown this variant spreads more easily and can cause more severe illness in comparison to the original COVID-19 strain.
- First identified in South Africa, research has shown this variant spreads more easily and may be capable of re-infecting people who have previously tested positive for COVID-19.
- Vaccines may be somewhat less effective against infections with this variant, but will provide some protection against severe outcomes.
- First identified in Brazil, research has shown this variant spreads more easily and is capable of re-infecting people who have previously tested positive for COVID-19.
- It is unknown if vaccine effectiveness is changed against this variant
- First identified in India, researchers are monitoring for specific subtypes of this variant, including B.1.617.1, B.1.617.2 (Delta variant), and B.1.617.3. Only the B.1.617.2 subtype is a variant of concern.
- Research has shown that the Delta variant spreads more easily and causes more severe illness. It may be capable of re-infecting people who have previously tested positive for COVID-19.
Alberta Health regularly updates data on vaccine effectiveness for each variant strain.
Symptoms of COVID-19 caused by variants are the same as original COVID-19, including cough, fever, shortness of breath, runny nose, sore throat, loss of sense of taste or smell, or other symptoms.
While the variants of concern spread more easily, they spread in the same way as original COVID-19. This means the same types of preventive strategies will be effective. However, these variants can more easily take advantage of any relaxation of those preventive measures.
Reduce Your Risk & Help Prevent the Spread of COVID-19
To protect yourself and those around you, take these steps to prevent the spread of COVID-19, even if immunized:
If you test positive for COVID-19 you will receive notification of your test results. You should assume you have a variant strain of COVID-19.
- You are legally required to isolate immediately for at least 5 days if you are fully immunized, or 10 days if you are not fully immunized, from when your symptoms started, or from the date you were tested. Because variant strains spread more easily it is even more important to isolate completely away from others in your household whenever possible.