The Covid calamity that struck the world in 2019 has again surfaced with vengeance in many countries such as China, Singapore, the US, UK and in some parts of India. The reports regarding the spread of a new strain of Covid-19 infection is rising as it attacks the immune system. The sudden surge is a matter of grave concern and cannot be possibly taken lightly or ignored. In the present moment, India confronts an emergency to reduce spread, and save lives.
Covid-19 cases have witnessed a sharp spike due to a new dominant strain identified that is identified as JN.1. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that this variant poses grave risk of higher infection. The WHO has released a video message, wherein their senior epidemiologist Dr Maria Van Kerkhove is tracking its cause to multiple reasons, including dense gatherings during the holiday season and other secondary infections. Dr Maria Van Kerkhove, a senior Covid-19 technical head the global health body, urges the people to take precautions.
Last month Dr Raj Rajnarayan, the assistant dean of research and associate professor at the New York Institute of Technology detected Covid variant Pirola (BA.2.86) in an Indian traveler coming from Singapore during airport surveillance.
The disturbing question that arises-is Pirola variant very dangerous? However it is noted that the Pirola variant appears to be much milder than the original Covid-19 strain that turned into the ' deadly Delta variant'. This took countless lives during the first and second wave of the pandemic. The health expert in an interview with HT has informed that limited number of samples of the Pirola variant is available. Hence, it is not possible to correctly asses the severity of the new strain.
A notification issued by The CDC mentions that the Pirola variant could potentially affect people who have survived from the effects of earlier variant of corona virus or have received Covid-19 vaccines. This indicates a higher risk for breakthrough infections as compared to previous strains of the virus.
Symptoms of the Pirola variant infected patients
Eris variant or EG.5
This had been found in more than fifty countries according to the WHO. It is one of the most common and fastest growing COVID-19 sub- variant in the U.S. It is estimated to be responsible for around 17% of current COVID cases, according to the CDC.
Symptoms of the Eris variant of corona virus include:
- Shortness of breath
- Muscle aches
- Loss of taste and smell
- Sore throat
Omicron variant spread in different parts of India causes concern
The health experts in India have also detected a case of Covid Sub variant JN.1 in Kerala during an ongoing routine surveillance of the Indian SARS-CoV-2 Genomics Consortium (INSACOG). This has kindled speculations that it might be present in other parts of India although it could not be despite detected within the country’s borders until now.
Experts have raised concerns over the emergence of a new Omicron sub variant – BA. 2.86. According to various media reports, considerable mutations in the spike protein of BA.2.86 raise grave concerns about potential immune evasion. It also indicates that the existing vaccines and prior Covid-19 infection may offer minimum protection against this variant compared to earlier strains of the virus.
Corona virologist Dr Pavithra Venkatagopalan says that Pirola or BA.2.86 variant has as many changes as Omicron had from Delta. The resurgent wave of COVID-19 in India has been spreading to rural populations in the region.
According to Rajeev Jayadevan, the National Indian Medical Association Covid Task Force’s co-chairman remarks that after a seven-month gap, cases are rising in India especially In Kerala. This has ushered the need for universal health coverage (UHC) in India. The pandemic experts are concerned about the pace at which it is spreading.
Also there is a slight rise in active Covid-19 cases recently in some parts in India, including Maharashtra. This variant spreads more easily than the original virus that causes COVID-19 and the delta variant.
PTI reports that Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimate that BA.2.86 comprises 9% of new cases. However, the exact number can range anywhere from 5% to 15%. However, no increase in cases was observed in Tiruchirapalli district or other places in Tamil Nadu following the strain being detected in them. There are reports of people getting Covid, but the severity so far appears not to be the same as before.
The economic times report that Severe COVID-19 cases linked to rising heart attack were reported during Navratri in Gujarat.
Main symptoms of BA.2.86 Covid variant
- Sore throat
- Changes to sense of smell
Ways to protect from different Covid variants such as BA.2.86
- Covid experts have said that wearing a quality mask remains one of the most effective ways to curb its spread. It has been found that N95 masks block 95% of airborne particulates, including the ones responsible for COVID-19.
- Mask-wearing at airports
- Avoid poorly ventilated crowded areas.
- Use HEPA filters. The CDC has said that HEPA filters such as the Blue air Blue Pure 311i Max, are an effective way to eliminate the particles of this strain.
- Sanitize hands using hand sanitizer or wash them properly with soap
- Opt to clean the surface itself using disinfectant wipes so that no germs remain on the floor
- Wipe down surfaces that are touched often like television remotes or light switches so that the virus does not stay on them
The government has asked states to strictly comply with operational guidelines for surveillance of the Covid-19 virus, and ensure sufficient testing in all districts. The states have been asked to monitor and report district-wise influenza-like illness and severe acute respiratory illness cases in all health facilities on a regular basis for detecting the early rising trend of cases.