Want to see the COVID-19 strains circulating near you? Click here, scroll down to the world map, and press “play” to see an animated representation.
Researchers from hundreds of universities and laboratories worldwide are collecting samples of COVID-19 (1,500 so far), sequencing their genomes, and uploading them onto an open-source site called Next Strain, where scientists can track how the virus travels and changes around the world. It’s fascinating from a scientific standpoint, albeit frightening.
COVID-19 is mutating slowly, with eight current strains, making a long-lasting vaccine more feasible. And outbreaks are easy to track. Current findings:
- Washington state’s outbreaks come from two strains, one likely a man who returned from Wuhan, China, and one from Europe
- Most cases on the West Coast are likely connected to the aforementioned Washington man, while East Coast outbreaks include strains from Washington state, China, and Europe.
- U.S. long-distance transmissions are continuing, intermingling virus strains from across the country, meaning that strains are not staying local and contained
- Europe’s strains are moving across borders, mixing strains across the continent.
- Recent cases have likely spread from Iran back into to Asia.
- Local transmissions are likely taking place in New South Wales, Australia, and Kinshasa, DRC
A disclaimer: This data is not a perfect picture. Of the half million confirmed cases worldwide, only 1,500 of them are tracked here. For now, the researchers tell USA Today that some social isolation efforts are working, and that all strains appear similar, with none growing significantly more lethal. In this news cycle, that counts as good news.