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The highly contagious Delta variant of the COVID-19 which was first detected in India now makes up 90% of all new cases in the country. This new variant of the novel coronavirus is significantly more transmissible and more dangerous than other circulating variants in terms of the severity of illness that it causes, America's Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy warned on Wednesday. "We have seen how quickly it has taken over in the United Kingdom, where it's become - getting close to 100 per cent of new COVID cases, Delta. And we have seen a surge in the USA too. So I am worried," Dr. Murthy quoted as saying. He further added, "I'm quite worried about the Delta variant. It is more transmissible, significantly more transmissible. It also may be more dangerous in terms of severity of illness that it causes."
The highly transmissible Delta variant of COVID-19 has now mutated to form Delta Plus. Around 40 cases of the Delta plus variant, classified as a variant of concern (VOC), have been detected sporadically in Maharashtra, Kerala and Madhya Pradesh, the Union Health Ministry said on Wednesday. The Indian SARS-CoV-2 Genomic Consortia (INSACOG)reported the evolution of Delta plus variant (B.1.617.2) + K417N lineage of SARS-CoV2 called B.1.617.2.1/ AY.1. The Delta plus variant B.1.617.2.1/ (AY.1) is characterized by the K417N mutation in spike protein.
The SARS-CoV-2 virus causing COVID-19 disease is mutating continuously with an increase in the number of infections both across the world and in India. Mutations help the virus to become either more transmissible or more virulent or both. With time these mutations known as Variants of Interest (VOI) increase in frequency in the selected population and are considered then as VOC.
The World Health Organization classified the Delta variant as a variant of concern on May 10. According to the experts, the transmissibility of the Delta variant is unquestionably greater than the wild type SARS-CoV2 as well as the Alpha variant. The COVID-19 Weekly Epidemiological Update released on June 22 by the World Health Organisation (WHO) said that globally, the variant Alpha has been reported in 170 countries, territories, or areas, Beta in 119 countries, Gamma in 71 countries, and Delta in 85 countries.
The World Health Organisation said that the four current 'Variants of Concern' being monitored closely Alpha, Beta, Gamma, and Delta - are widespread and have been detected in all WHO regions. "The Delta variant is significantly more transmissible than Alpha variant, and is expected to become a dominant lineage if current trends continue." WHO noted that since the last detailed update on June 8, new evidence has been published on the phenotypic characteristics of the Delta variant. "A study from Singapore showed that infection with Delta variant was associated with higher odds of oxygen requirement, intensive care unit (ICU) admission, or death," it said.
Vaccine effectiveness estimates against hospitalization due to Delta and Alpha variants over 14 days post-second dose was estimated to be 96 per cent and 95 per cent respectively for Pfizer BioNTech- Comirnaty and 92 per cent and 86 per cent respectively, for AstraZeneca-Vaxzevria. Single dose effectiveness against hospitalisation over 21 days after immunisation remained high for Pfizer BioNTech-Comirnaty at 94 per cent against Delta and 83 per cent against Alpha. The effectiveness of one dose of AstraZeneca-Vaxzevria against hospitalization was similar for Delta and Alpha variants.
(With inputs from Agenices)
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