It has been almost 2 years now, since we are tackling this pandemic. This virus has literally taken a toll on our physical as well as mental health.
1st December, 2019: First case identified in Wuhan China, hence the name covid “19”
31st December 2019: Health authorities alerted WHO’s China office as “Cases of PNEUMONIA OF UNKNOWN ETIOLOGY”
1st January 2020: Wuhan sea food market closed
9th January 2020: First death in Wuhan, China
30th January 2020: India reported its first case
11th of March 2020: WHO declared it as a global pandemic
India has already gone through two waves of Covid-19 and now there is the news of a possible third wave. There are many myths and doubts going around regarding the virus. About its mutations and how they are going to affect the world population. So we got in touch with Dr. Vaibhav Rahim, a general physician to clear our doubts around Corona virus.
How Many Coronaviruses Are There?
Coronaviruses didn’t just pop up recently. They’re a large family of viruses that have been around for a long time. There are 4 families (classes) of the coronavirus, mainly being alpha, beta, gamma and delta. Previously these viruses didn’t have the potential of human transmission.
What is the novel coronavirus?
The new or the novel coronavirus that causes COVID-19 is one of several known to infect humans, which has been harboured in animals, for quite some time. Sometimes, a virus in animals crosses over into people. That’s what scientists think happened here. So this virus isn’t new to the world, but it is new to the humans
When and where have these other coronaviruses emerged?
SARS CoV was first reported in Guandona, China in the year 2002. Another strain of the virus MERS CoV was reported in the year 2012 in Saudi Arabia. The origin of the current pandemic is said to be from the Hubei province of Wuhan, China.
Why is the virus mutating?
Okay, so talking in the medical terminology, Coronaviruses have their genetic material in RNA. When the virus infects you they attach to your cells, get inside them, and make copies of their genetic material, which helps them to spread. If there’s a copying mistake the RNA gets changed hence, mutation. These changes happen randomly and by accident. One of the suggested reasons being the failure of an enzyme called “Exonuclease” to check the RdRp gene in the RNA during its replication.
What is the Delta plus variant of the novel coronavirus?
This variant was believed to be spotted in India in December 2020. It caused a huge surge in cases in mid-April 2021. Delta plus variant contains an additional mutation called K417N, in the part of the spike protein of the virus. WHO has included the Delta plus variant aka B.1.617.2 in its list of variants of concern, as it lead to resurgence of COVID 19 cases, in some parts of the world (in almost 43 countries including the U.S., U.K., Australia, and Singapore.)
An added cause for concern is that it is causing more cases of COVID-19 in young people! The B.1.617.2 Plus or Delta Plus variant has increased transmissibility, stronger binding to receptors of lung cells and potential reduction in monoclonal antibody response.
India also reported considerable amounts of cases of this new strain first time in March. Experts suggest that the localised cases in India are not enough to claim that Delta Plus is spreading rapidly.
How can we tackle this problem?
The nation has started unlocking in most of its parts, which also includes the lifting of border restrictions and ease of inter-state/ inter-district travel. In such scenario, the safety of people remains in one’s own hands. Double masking, social distancing, frequent washing/sanitization of hands, such steps are as essential as vaccination.
What is the effectiveness of the vaccines against the mutated virus?
There are still many people out there who are skeptical about getting vaccinated. So, let’s clear the air about all the concerns coming in about the effectiveness of the vaccines.
Dr. Balram Bhargava who is the Director General of Indian Council for Medical Research has said that COVID-19 vaccines, Covishield and Covaxin work against Alpha, Beta, Gamma and Delta variants of SARS-CoV-2. He also informed that the Delta Plus variant has been isolated and cultured at ICMR-NIV, and laboratory tests are being performed to check effectiveness of the vaccine on the Delta Plus variant. The results will be out in 7 to 10 days as to whether the vaccine is working against the Delta Plus variant.
To conclude, Vaccination is the only way to gain some immunity against this virus. Studies have shown that the severity of the illness is quite low in the immunised population. In addition to this, the recovery rate is quite good in these people.
What to Expect? Will there be a 3rd wave?
According to the experts, it is uncertain and the declining number of new cases shows no indication of any trend. However, it is quite early to say anything on this. The virus that causes COVID-19 will probably keep changing. Experts may find new variants. It’s impossible to predict how the virus will behave in future. But change is just what viruses do.
Dr. Vaibhav Rahim is a general physician. The MS Ramaiah medical college graduate will be appearing for his Post Graduation exams soon. He used to work in a government hospital in Raipur. Currently he works part time at his Father’s hospital and provides online consultation.
Contact Dr. Vaibhav Rahim to book online consultation at +91 9945681916