CAN DELTA PLUS VARIANT OF COVID-19 SPONSIBLE FOR THE THIRD WAVE?

(India is just recovering from the deadly impact of the second coronavirus wave and we are almost con-fronted with the third wave. The delta virus has mutated to delta plus variant and one death has already been reported due to the delta plus virus, sounding alarm bells across our country.

What are the implications of the mutated delta plus variant? Is the third wave likely to be due to the delta variant virus and what steps are required to arrest this delta plus strain?

What are the differences likely to be between the second wave and the third wave?

The second wave played havoc in our lives due to its rapid spread and increased fatalities. India had the ignominy to have more than 5000 deaths daily for many weeks. The number of people infected was in the millions. Thankfully the second wave caused by the delta coronavirus has almost abated, though late lung, kidneys, heart, and vascular complications are still present in a few.

What about the third wave?

Though there are doubts about the third wave, many scientists are sure that the third wave will strike India in about 1 to 2 months. This wave is likely to be due to the delta plus virus. The highly infectious Delta variant 13.1.617.2 of Covid-19 that caused havoc in the second wave is thought to be mutated into a more virulent version called AY.1 or Delta plus.

How many have been infected so far in India?

More than 40 cases of the delta plus variant,classic-fled as Variant Of Concern have been detected. ed in some parts of Maharashtra, Kerala, and Madhya Pradesh.

Why is the Delta plus considered a variant of concern by our scientists?

It has two major worrying features. Firstly it has increased transmissibility, which means that it can spread faster, secondly a possibility that it could be resistant to the monoclonal antibody treatment. Monoclonal antibodies are a new line of treatment in India for use in mild to moderate cases of Covid-19 in high-risk patients.

Do vaccines work against Delta plus variant?

The emergence of any new significant variant raises the question of the effectiveness of the vaccine. This is because the vaccine was tested against the previous strain of the coronavirus that was predominant at that point in time. It is suspected that the vaccines may not be effective against the new strains. The Union Health Ministry has however stated that the currently available Covishield and Covaxin are both effective against the Delta plus variant.

Who is likely to be infected with the Delta plus variant?

People with weak immune systems and those who have incomplete vaccine immunity are most likely to be infected with Delta plus variant. This is known as the immune escape phenomenon.

What strategy are the experts recommending?

Presently it seems the number of individuals infected by this strain is minuscule. However, we need to enhance the public health response. We should focus on surveillance, enhanced testing, quick contact tracing, and priority vaccination. As in the U.K., we need to enhance the speed of vaccination. The delta plus variant is likely to cause mild symptoms in those already vaccinated.
What about the vaccines? Unfortunately, if the Covid variant that is delta plus infects those already vaccinated, then the vaccines would require modification so as to enable them to be more effective against the new strains.

What about the present vaccination strategy?

Many are coming forward to take the vaccine. Still many prejudices and misconceptions prevail. The vaccine does not cause impotency or infertility or any new disease. It does not increase bleeding or blood clotting. It can be safely given even if you have hypertension, diabetes, or tuberculosis, or during menstruation. It can be safely given even if you have heart disease or previous bypass surgery or angioplasty.

Why has the new Covid Delta plus variant come into existence?

All viruses are known to mutate or change their characteristics. The more rapidly the virus spreads the more chances of mutation. This influences the ability of the spike protein present in the virus to engage with the human cell. India’s worries about the pandemic do not seem to end in the near future. The third wave is at our doorsteps if certain predictions are to be believed. Covid appropriate behavior is to be followed in a most disciplined manner. Let us take our vaccines, wear two masks including one N 95 and venture out only if necessary. Social distancing and handwashing need to be a part of our Covid behavior.

Categories : COVID-19

Dr Jay Deshmukh is Chief Physician and Director, Sunflower Hospital, Nagpur Honorary Physician to Honorable Governor of Maharashtra and PondicherryCentral. Dr Jay Deshmukh is an M.B.B.S., M.C.P.S., F.C.P.S., M.N.A.M.S., MD From Internal Medicine – Bombay and New Delhi.

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