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India saw a devastating second wave of COVID-19 fuelled mainly by the Delta variant of COVID-19. The country is barely over this wave when the Delta plus Pariant emerged amid worries over a third wave of the pandemic. Many experts have predicted that this third wave may come as early as mid-August and warn that if proper precautions are not strictly adhered to, it may be even worse than the second wave. Now, after Uttar Pradesh reported 2 cases of Kappa COVID-19 variant, 11 more cases have been reported from Rajasthan. This was confirmed by the state health minister Raghu Sharma. Of these, four cases each were reported from Jaipur and Alwar, while Barmer reported two cases and Bhilwara one. Of these, nine samples tested positive for the Kappa variant from Delhi, while two tested positive at Sawai Man Singh (SMS) Hospital in Jaipur.
The Kappa variant (also called B.1.617.1) was first detected in India in October 2020. According to the World Health Organisation, this is a variant of interest and not a variant of concern. By definition, it can be called a mutation with certain genetic changes that can affect virus characteristics to make it more transmissible, help it evade tests, make it immune to known therapies and also help it cause severe disease. Such variants of interest, according to WHO, can trigger community transmission or lead to the emergence of COVID-19 clusters in multiple countries besides increasing the total number of cases worldwide significantly. The WHO website also says that this can suggest an emerging risk to global public health.
The Kappa variant is not likely to cause severe disease. But this variant has the L453R mutation. Hence, it is likely that it may be able to escape the immune response. However, scientists are still studying this and, till now, there is no concrete data available.
According to the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR), India's indigenous vaccine, Bharat Biotech's Covaxin, will work against this variant of COVID-19. Another research by Oxford University last month said that Covishield also provides protection against the Kappa variant. Nothing much is known about the efficacy of the other vaccines in use currently.
Experts unanimously agree that all COVID-19 precautions are a must irrespective of whether you are vaccinated or not. You need to protect yourself from all variants of the virus, whether it is one of 'concern' or of 'interest'. So practice social distancing, wear a face mask at all times and wash your hands frequently. Carry a sanitiser with you at all times because water may not always be available to wash hands. After all, prevention is better than cure.
(With inputs from IANS)
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