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COVID-19 Pandemic: Are New Coronavirus Variants More Contagious? WHO Expert Answers All FAQs About SARS-CoV-2 Mutations

According to the World Health Organisation, SARS-CoV-2 virus variants: B.1.1.7, B.1. 351 and P. 1 are the three variants of coronavirus that have been detected so far

COVID-19 Pandemic: Are New Coronavirus Variants More Contagious? WHO Expert Answers All FAQs About SARS-CoV-2 Mutations
Highlights
  • Coronavirus has a tendency to mutate while multiplying
  • Coronavirus variants: B.1.1.7 was first identified in the United Kingdom
  • B.1. 351 was identified in South Africa, P. 1 is circulating in Brazil

New Delhi: While the COVID-19 pandemic continues to rage the world, the virus SARS-CoV-2 which is responsible for this disease has been multiplying, mutating and spreading even faster. According to experts, since the outbreak had started, researchers across the world have found multiple variants of coronavirus that differ from the one found in Wuhan, China in December 2019 which is considered to be the ‘original’ strain. The World Health Organization (WHO), along with its partners, are currently tracking three virus variants – from the UK, South Africa and Brazil – that are circulating around the world. As part of WHO’s conversations in science series, Dr Maria Van Kerkhove, Epidemiologist and Technical Lead, COVID-19, explains SARS-CoV-2 variants, their transmissibility and severity.

Also Read: ‘Coronavirus Pandemic In Its Endgame’, Says Union Health Minister, Experts Weigh In With Precautions

According to Dr Kerkhove, scientists are currently tracking changes in the virus and what these changes mean in terms of transmission, severity and potential impact on diagnostics, therapeutics and vaccines. While explaining about the transmissibility of the new variants of coronavirus, Dr Kerkhove said,

The first variant is B.1.1.7, which was first identified in the United Kingdom. The second variant is the B.1.351, which was first identified in South Africa. The third variant is the P. 1. It is circulating in Brazil, but it was identified among travellers arriving in Japan. So far, the information that we have is that there is increased transmissibility in the B.1.1.7 and B.1.351 virus variants. This is resulting from a mutation that allows this virus variant to bind to the human cell more easily. We do not see an increase yet in transmission with the P.1, but that is currently under investigation.

On the severity of the recognised variants, Dr Kerkhove said that there are some studies from the United Kingdom that suggest that the B.1.1.7 has increased severity.

While talking about the impact of the new variant on vaccine development and if the available vaccines are effective against these virus variants, she said,

There are studies that are underway that are evaluating the effect of vaccines against these virus variants. And from the information that we have so far, the vaccines still work against these virus variants.

Also Read: Women’s Day 2021: COVID-19 Pandemic Impact On Women And Their Struggle To Feed Their Families

How Is WHO Tracking These Variants?

According to Dr Kerkhove, WHO is tracking different mutations and variants around the world through genomic sequencing. Genome sequencing is a technique that reads and interprets genetic information found within gene. She said,

We are working with our member states and with partners around the world to increase sequencing capacity around the world so that we can identify any changes in the virus over time. This is natural virus evolution and many countries around the world have actually been sequencing viruses from the beginning of this pandemic. We are working to increase the ability to do sequencing around the world so that we can see in all countries where changes are being detected and where variants of interest are being detected.

She further explained that the variants that are important for tracking are ones that have changed in the way that the virus behaves. This means that either they may have increased transmissibility, may cause more severe disease, or may have some kind of impact on the workings of diagnostics or therapeutics and vaccines, she said.

If any of the variants have any of those changes, those are variants of concern. And we need to make sure that we study those appropriately and that any changes that are needed in our public health and social measures or in the way that we develop our diagnostics, or the vaccine composition are informed by our understanding of what those changes are, said Dr Kerkhove.

How To Protect Oneself Against The New Variants Of Coronavirus?

Dr Kerkhove recommends focusing on preventive measures taken on an individual level. She said that transmission of the virus can be reduced by following physical distancing, hand hygiene, wearing a mask, adopting respiratory etiquette like covering the mouth with a tissue paper while sneezing, opening the window when in a closed room, avoiding crowded places, staying at home when unwell, getting tested if needed and following the SOP (standard operating procedures) issued locally. She signed off by saying,

We have had many global consultations and meetings to look at these virus variants and determine if any changes are needed in our guidance. And so far, with all of the information that we have, the public health and social measures, the infection prevention and control measures in health care facilities and outside of health care facilities work against these virus variants. Take all of the steps that you can to keep yourself and your loved ones safe against SARS-CoV-2.

Also Read: COVID-19 Recovered People Showing Faster Antibody Response To Covishield Vaccine: Study

NDTV – Dettol Banega Swasth India campaign is an extension of the five-year-old Banega Swachh India initiative helmed by Campaign Ambassador Amitabh Bachchan. It aims to spread awareness about critical health issues facing the country. In wake of the current COVID-19 pandemic, the need for WASH (WaterSanitation and Hygiene) is reaffirmed as handwashing is one of the ways to prevent Coronavirus infection and other diseases. The campaign highlights the importance of nutrition and healthcare for women and children to prevent maternal and child mortality, fight malnutrition, stunting, wasting, anaemia and disease prevention through vaccines. Importance of programmes like Public Distribution System (PDS), Mid-day Meal Scheme, POSHAN Abhiyan and the role of Aganwadis and ASHA workers are also covered. Only a Swachh or clean India where toilets are used and open defecation free (ODF) status achieved as part of the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan launched by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in 2014, can eradicate diseases like diahorrea and become a Swasth or healthy India. The campaign will continue to cover issues like air pollutionwaste managementplastic banmanual scavenging and sanitation workers and menstrual hygiene

World

24,06,78,961Cases
20,23,40,977Active
3,34,39,331Recovered
48,98,653Deaths
Coronavirus has spread to 195 countries. The total confirmed cases worldwide are 24,06,78,961 and 48,98,653 have died; 20,23,40,977 are active cases and 3,34,39,331 have recovered as on October 18, 2021 at 4:17 am.

India

3,40,81,315 13,596Cases
1,89,6946,152Active
3,34,39,331 19,582Recovered
4,52,290 166Deaths
In India, there are 3,40,81,315 confirmed cases including 4,52,290 deaths. The number of active cases is 1,89,694 and 3,34,39,331 have recovered as on October 18, 2021 at 2:30 am.

State Details

State Cases Active Recovered Deaths
Maharashtra

65,91,697 1,715

32,230 994

64,19,678 2,680

1,39,789 29

Kerala

48,54,321 7,555

88,186 3,292

47,39,270 10,773

26,865 74

Karnataka

29,83,459 326

9,479 58

29,36,039 380

37,941 4

Tamil Nadu

26,87,092 1,218

14,814 208

26,36,379 1,411

35,899 15

Andhra Pradesh

20,60,472 432

6,034 159

20,40,131 586

14,307 5

Uttar Pradesh

17,10,028 9

119 10

16,87,011 19

22,898

West Bengal

15,80,530 624

7,421 24

15,54,132 634

18,977 14

Delhi

14,39,390 32

320 6

14,13,981 38

25,089

Odisha

10,35,077 443

4,542 68

10,22,250 508

8,285 3

Chhattisgarh

10,05,654 16

183 2

9,91,901 14

13,570

Rajasthan

9,54,390 2

42 2

9,45,394 4

8,954

Gujarat

8,26,290 10

207 6

8,15,997 16

10,086

Madhya Pradesh

7,92,684 5

84 12

7,82,077 17

10,523

Haryana

7,71,076 15

123 9

7,60,904 6

10,049

Bihar

7,26,026 5

48 4

7,16,317 1

9,661

Telangana

6,68,955 122

3,924 55

6,61,093 176

3,938 1

Assam

6,06,468 205

3,436 46

5,97,082 245

5,950 6

Punjab

6,02,035 27

227 8

5,85,264 16

16,544 3

Jharkhand

3,48,430 7

122 1

3,43,173 8

5,135

Uttarakhand

3,43,756 9

178 1

3,36,181 8

7,397

Jammu And Kashmir

3,31,062 95

843 12

3,25,793 107

4,426

Himachal Pradesh

2,21,437 131

1,303 5

2,16,414 125

3,720 1

Goa

1,77,522 60

604 6

1,73,572 62

3,346 4

Puducherry

1,27,396 52

585 13

1,24,961 64

1,850 1

Manipur

1,22,737 104

1,422 0

1,19,418 102

1,897 2

Mizoram

1,12,848 249

11,633 1,143

1,00,829 1,389

386 3

Tripura

84,321 16

104 4

83,401 12

816

Meghalaya

82,953 55

845 32

80,673 86

1,435 1

Chandigarh

65,302 3

25 3

64,457 6

820

Arunachal Pradesh

54,987 7

140 30

54,567 37

280

Sikkim

31,749 4

174 8

31,184 12

391

Nagaland

31,611 40

248 12

30,689 28

674

Ladakh

20,878 2

36 10

20,634 12

208

Dadra And Nagar Haveli

10,676 1

4 1

10,668

4

Lakshadweep

10,365

0 0

10,314

51

Andaman And Nicobar Islands

7,641

9 0

7,503

129

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