Variants are viruses that have changed or mutated while reproducing inside an infected person’s cells. The variant can be spread to others and may continue to mutate as it moves from person to person.

New variant strains of COVID-19 were recently identified in the United Kingdom, South Africa and Brazil, and have since been identified in many other countries around the world. These strains are known as variants of concern, as they appear to spread more easily than other COVID-19 strains.

Alberta is monitoring for these variants of concern. Confirmed variant cases are updated on Tuesdays and Fridays. See confirmed variant cases in Alberta.

What we know

Scientists and public health officials around the world are studying these variant strains, including how the current vaccines may help protect against them.

Current evidence suggests these variants of concern are more contagious and can spread more easily than the original COVID-19 strain.

While it is not yet clear whether these new variants tend to cause more severe illness, there is concern about the impacts if they become common in our communities. The increased spread of COVID-19 would result in more illness, hospitalizations and deaths.

Symptoms in variant cases are the same as usual COVID-19 symptoms, including cough, fever, shortness of breath, runny nose, and sore throat. See the full list of symptoms.

Learn more about COVID-19 variants from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Reduce your risk and prevent the spread

Though COVID-19 variants of concern are more contagious, they spread – and can be protected against – in the same ways as the usual virus.

It is critical to continue taking action to protect yourself and others from all strains of COVID-19: