CHICAGO (NewsNation Now) — There are more than a dozen COVID-19 variants, according to the World Health Organization, which ones do you need to pay attention to?
The first COVID-19 variant emerged in March 2020, and since then some like delta and alpha have dramatically impacted the global health care system.
The WHO tracks variants and their spread in three categories: variants of concern, variants of interest and variants under monitoring.
Once a variant rises to the level of interest, or the second tier, it is given a Greek name. Before that point, it remains titled its Pango lineage which is the scientific name of the strain.
Variants of Concern
These variants, according to the WHO, are those that have an increase in transmissibility, severity or impact the effectiveness of treatments and vaccines.
They’re also the ones that have made international headlines for their ability to spread rapidly and cause global health crises.
So far, four variants have made that list.
Variants of Interest
The variants in this category have not risen to the level of severe health systems impact, but contain the worrying characteristics found in variants of concern that could make the virus spread faster or be deadlier.
Both the variants in this category have been found in the United States, but have not replaced delta as the most prolific strain.
Variants Under Monitoring
14 total variants fall under this category, and any new strain detected will be first classified here. It also includes any variants that were initially under interest, but then did not create as significant of an impact as previously concerned about.
The kappa, iota, eta and epsilon variants all made national headlines when they first emerged but none infected more than 3% of the global population, which caused their downgrading.
The CDC only has designated one of these variants, the delta, as a variant of concern. The rest are either being monitored or present in the United States at this time.