Our fight against the pandemic may get tougher, with the latest challenge of the new COVID-19 strains emerging across the country. Experts have warned that the new variants of SARS-CoV-2 can cause reinfections even in those people who have developed antibodies to the virus.
According to the latest reports by the Maharashtra COVID task force, 240 new mutant strains of coronavirus has been detected majorly in Maharashtra followed by Madhya Pradesh, Kerala, Punjab and Chattisgarh. The new strains were observed in samples examined from these regions but more tests will be required to check the potential infection hazards of this new COVID-19 strain. While probing is going in full-force, some regions in Maharashtra are showing large cluster infections and a lower death rate.
Herd immunity in India is difficult to achieve
In an interview with a news channel, Dr. Randeep Guleria, Director of AIIMS said that achieving herd immunity in India will be very difficult to achieve as the variant strains can cause varying immunity which eventually will result in reinfection. Dr. Guleria emphasized the fact that at least 80% of people need to have antibodies for the whole population to be protected against the virus.
Another aspect is that majority of the population have mild COVID-19 infection and for that, the antibodies production is fewer and tends to wane over time. Therefore, under such circumstances, it is important that we all the necessary precautions and maintain COVID-appropriate behaviour.
Why does the coronavirus change or mutate?
Variants of virus or new viruses occur when there is a change in their genes. This change or mutation is expected in RNA viruses. Geographical separation is also one of the causes of different COVID-19 strains. This is neither a new or unexpected phenomenon, all RNA-viruses mutate over time which is the reason why doctors encourage patients to get a new flu vaccine every year.
What we know so far about the new strains
- Spreads easily from person-to-person
- Causes milder to more severe symptoms
- Can be detected by current tests
- Can be treated via current COVID-19 medicines
- Changes the effectiveness of COVID-19 vaccines
Will there be newer strains?
As long as coronavirus spreads through populations and countries, mutations will continue to happen and newer strains will come into being. New variants of SARS-CoV-2 will be detected every now and then. Some will come and go and others will persist.
How to stay safe
- Wash hands thoroughly and more frequently
- Do not touch your eyes, nose or mouth
- Maintain social distance
- Avoid crowded places
- Follow good personal hygiene
- Wear a mask when you step out or near a sick person
- Wash your clothes when you come home from outdoors & take a bath
- Talk to a doctor if you are showing signs of fever, cough or breathing difficulties
It is advised that you do not panic. Combat the fear through information and precaution. When detected on time, coronavirus can be treated effectively under observation in a hospital.
Please follow good personal and hand hygiene, local safety measures and consult a doctor when experiencing symptoms of respiratory illness.