By GYAN BHADRA
NEW DELHI: Chameleon changes its colour. So does coronavirus? No prizes for guessing! The latter adapts “mutation” to survive and infect us. Public memory is not painfully short that it will forget the way coronavirus coming out from China and spreading out its wing across the world in 2019 was called Covid – 19. Later, the mutation of Covid-19 took place in January 2020 and December 2020 in both
England and India respectively. The metamorphosed viruses in England and India were nicknamed as “Alpha”(B.1.1.7) and “Delta” (B.1.617.2) respectively. As of now, Delta virus is the major prevailing strain worldwide infecting and taking in its fold 104 countries and counts for 97 percent of new coronavirus cases in England.
“As a matter of fact, Delta variant is considered as 50 percent more contagious than its predecessor. In quick succession, it can infect three to four other people as compared to one or two done by the original strain in the past. And it is highly likely to escape protection from currently available vaccine and conventional Covid-19 treatments,” says Dr. Azhar Perwaiz, Associate Director, Head Esophagogastric Surgery, Deptt. of GI Surgery, GI Oncology & Bariatric Surgery, Institute of Digestive and Hepatobiliary Sciences at Gurgaon – based Medanta The Medicity.
Dr. Perwaiz goes on to say that when on one hand scientists had engaged themselves in gathering information’s to counter or contain this new variant; on the other reports of emergence of a subvariant known as Delta Plus (B.1.617.2.1 or AY. 1) have surfaced on public domain.
As is wont of Delta Plus variant, it is more prone to attack lungs thereby causing serious pneumonia. And potentially it can escape from conventional vaccines as well. Analysing the important facet of this virus, Dr Perwaiz explains that it poses problems to differentiate this strain clinically owing to its symptoms which have uncanny resemblance with those of older strains. However, some exceptions of cough and loss of smell seem to be less; while headache, sore throat and fever are more pronounced. Fear and apprehensions relating to hospitalization of more people and deaths—-especially among unvaccinated people—- are writ large among healthcare providers. This is all too evident from a preliminary report published in “The Lancet” journal.
It has been obseved that higher reported incidence in demographic zones with less vaccinated population indirectly underscores the fact that unvaccinated people are most likely to be affected by the variant. As is well known that in most part of the world, kids and adolescents (age being less than 18 years) are still unvaccinated ; so their susceptibility to infection and, to make matters worse, turning them most vulnerable segment of the society will be a healthcare challenge to healthcare professionals in near future; in case a third wave is imminent.
Expressing his opinions on currently available vaccines, he says that these vaccines have registered moderate success against this strain. As per the report of UK-based Public health England agency, moderna vaccine’s two doses are posssibly 88 percent effective against the disease and 96 percent effective against hospitalization. As regards Astrazeneca vaccine, it is about 60 percent effective against the disease and 93 percent effective against hospitalization. And more or less same report emanates from Johnson & Johnson’s one shot vaccine. However, what takes the cake is the question: Will booster doses to those who has already been vaccinated could help in containing this variant?
This is a moot question on which the scientists are having brainstorming sessions. As Dr. Perwaiz avers, the situation is not holding up here; since there have been reports of further subvariants such as Epsilon variant (B.1.427/B.1.429) emanating from Southern California and isolated in more than 30 countries.And the Lambda variant(C.37) emerging from Peru accounts for less than one percent of cases in United States.
As a suggestive measure, he advises that if the virus can adapt to survive, then it is all the more necessary for “us” to adapt to survive and eradicate this demon once and for all. As there are not much to choose, so strict adherence to vaccination, masks, social distancing and hand hygiene remains the “Mantras for Survival”.