During this pandemic, documentation of multiple variants of the COVID-19 virus has occurred across the United States and throughout the world. Data on these COVID-19 variants and their characteristics are quickly emerging.
Scientific research is gearing towards determining whether these variants spread more easily, whether their characteristics entail more severe symptoms among patients, and whether their changes have an impact on the ability of currently authorized vaccines to protect people.
As of now, there is not enough evidence available to suggest that these variants increase the risk of death or severity of symptoms.
Scientists have been expecting the emergence of new variants of the COVID-19 virus as viruses are known to go through continuous changes or mutations.
Studies, tests, and researches that include genetic analyses of the virus aid scientists in understanding the changes occurring and whether these mutations alter the ability of the virus to spread and infect individuals. These mutations can result in variants that either emerge and disappear or emerge and persist.
There are currently multiple COVID-19 variants circulating the globe.
A variant in the United Kingdom (UK) has emerged with an unusually high number of mutations. This specific variant has been noted to have an easier and faster time spreading than other variants. It was first discovered in September 2020 and quickly spread throughout London and southeast England.
Since then, the variant has been detected in several more countries across the globe, including the United States and Canada. Presently, no sufficient evidence is available to suggest this variant increases the risk of death or severity of symptoms.
Another variant, different from the one detected in the UK, has also emerged in South Africa. It was detected at the beginning of October 2020 and its mutations have certain similarities to the UK variant called B.1.1.7. It is likewise having an easier and faster time spreading than other variants.
Cases caused by this variant have already occurred outside of South Africa. Currently, there is not enough evidence available to suggest that these variants increase the risk of death or severe symptoms.
A separate variant has also emerged in Nigeria and is being closely monitored by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Similar to the other two variants from the UK and South Africa, there is no evidence to suggest the variant detected in Nigeria causes an increased risk of death or severity of symptoms among those infected by it.
To mitigate the harms of the emerging variants that are currently circulating, studies are being carried out to answer the following:
The situation is being closely monitored by the CDC and other public health agencies. CDC is currently focusing on detecting and characterizing the different viral variants while also working to better its ability to detect both old and new variants of COVID-19. They have staff on-the-ground to support the investigation of these viral variants.
Private entities, organizations, companies, and households have their part to play in this, as well. The proper management of medical and pharmaceutical waste can impact the course of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Pharmaceutical waste disposal pertains to the disposal of any chemical, biological product, or medicine whose intended purpose is to diagnose, cure, mitigate, care, provide treatment, or prevent any disease or injury. These products or medicine belong to different classifications such as:
When managed correctly, expired pharmaceuticals are not considered a serious threat to public health or the environment. However, neglecting proper disposal of these wastes may be hazardous and could result in the following problems:
In order to avoid these problems, hospitals, pharmacies, and private entities associated with the handling and disposal of pharmaceutical waste are required to comply with simultaneous multi-regulatory directives from:
These government entities enforce regulations and guidelines that contain requirements such as:
Policies on pharmaceutical waste disposal depend on the classification of waste. These policies contain stipulations regarding the following:
Reverse distribution – Generally used in cases of creditable expired drugs that retain their original manufacturer packaging.
To ensure adherence to proper pharmaceutical waste disposal, fines and penalties have multiplied across the United States. These fines can range from $25,000 to $70,000.
Criminal provisions stipulated under the RCRA include violations such as: