Covid-19 is moving to the next phase of transmission. The belief that the vaccine is in the offing is what sets 2021 apart.At the same time, there are fears that the mutation of the virus may complicate the situation. Concerns have been raised about how much the virus, which was discovered in the UK last month, could put us under a lot of pressure.
On January 3 alone, there were 54,990 new patients; 454 deaths were also reported. Thinking of it in a country with a population of just 678 lakhs, is frightening. Note this country with less than even twice the population of Kerala, is facing this.The new genetically modified virus strain is behind the current outbreak of Covid.
Dr Meera Chand, an expert in the field of public health in England, thinks this a worrying genetic mutation.Dr Andrew Rambaut, who studies the genetic structure of a virus in the UK Community of Genomics, named the new virus B117.On September 20, a new genetically modified virus began to emerge from a sample collected for genetic study. The UK has one of the most efficient genetic studies in the world.They follow a system of studying the samples of the virus at regular intervals. The virus was discovered in a sample from the city of Kent when they realised that it had some variations. By then it was November.
Meanwhile, the virus has spread to many parts of the UK. By December, the new virus had spread to Scotland, Wales, London and Essex. Concerns have been raised that the virus that has been spreading so far has overtaken D614G by B117.
At the same time, in Britain the spreading of Covid, the number of deaths and the number of people in need of hospital treatment increased dramatically. It is a virus that spreads faster than viruses seen before. New Covid-19 cases have also been confirmed.
What are the features of B117 virus? The information regarding this is far from comforting. 23 mutations were detected in the virus; 19 changes and four exceptions are seen in the virus structure. They noticed that a tyrosine molecule was added to replace the 501st asparagine molecule.
This change makes it easier for the virus to bind into specific receptors in the human cells and to enter the cell. It can cause less symptoms and yet worsen the disease. This, combined with the 69/70 deletion, could lead to a large increase in the spread of the virus, says Dr. Meera Chand.
This is exactly what we see. There are indications that the rate of spread has increased to about 70 percent, but it is not yet clear whether more people would die. Although the mortality rate is not increasing, it is seen that there may be an increase in the transmission and proliferation.
Meanwhile, an Indian scientist at the Wellcome Sanger Research Center in the UK , Dr. Deepti Gurdasani has released some remarkable and serious scientific observations. Our general perception about the PCR test is that they are good in detecting Covid, and won't go wrong.However, this test does not detect some people who are positive. It is pointed out that this is due to a genetic deletion that can cause up to 97% of cases of B117 virus infection. This phenomenon, known as spike doping, has led to an 80 percent increase in the spread of the disease in the south of the UK. They have found that the same pattern of spreading is seen in other regions as in the South.
This change in the spreading of the disease will also change our perception of who the disease affects. Two weeks ago, Wendy Barclay, a professor at the Imperial College said that the current variant affects children more than the previous viruses.If this is true, changes in the spreading pattern can also be expected. It is more likely to spread from children to teachers and to adults at home. Covid complications become more common in people with other diseases.Given the increase in doping and other factors, it is time for countries like India to make urgent policy intervention in Covid treatment facilities. The B117 variant has already been detected in many European countries, with wide spread to Netherlands, France, and Germany.
This has also been reported in other countries such as South Korea, Japan and Australia. The B117 virus is spreading in almost 30 countries. About 50,000 people have traveled to India since September 2020. It is not practical to find and test them all.Those who came to India infectedwiththe virus,might have surely spread on the new type of virus to others. Public health models that seem to be effective are not enough to stop the spread of the virus, but how quickly can the action can be taken?.
Zeynep Tufecki's article in the Atlantic Magazine a few days ago discusses this. In many cities of Europe, Covid spreads in different ways. Essentially, it had to do withthe delay in making decisions, in the first few weeks. While only a few were affected by Covid, better results were seen in areas where borders were closed and restrictions were enforced. Zeynep thinks that the perception that onlythe spread is increasing and that death rate is not increasing is a fallacy. Sheput forward a mathematical model discovered by a public health expert Adam Kucharsky.
Spreading occurs exponentially and death occurs linearly. As the spreading doubles ateach stage, the graph indicating death only moves slowly. Kucharsky shares an example to show this. Imagine three cities. All three have 10,000 active Covid patients. Covid in the first city is spreading at current rates.In the second city, the rate of spreadis increased by 50 percent. In the third city, the death toll is moving 50 percent higher. In all three cases, the Covid diffusion index (R Zero) is assumed to be only 1.1. If so, a month later 129 people will die in the first city. The death toll in the third city will rise to 193. But in the second city, 978 people will die. The Kucharsky model clearly shows the change that can occur if the rate of spread alone increases.
In densely populated places like Kerala, such pressures also need to be taken into account when formulating a policy. The few that have been found with the new Covid virus are not the only carriers. It will be correct to presume that fifty or a hundred times that number would now be carriers of the virus.
(This article published in Madhyamam Daily on January 12, 2021 was translated by Ibthisam Imthyas)