Science

‘Covid-19 new strain is not as virulent as reports are coming in’: AIIMS Professor

Mumbai | Updated on January 04, 2021 Published on January 04, 2021

To discuss the new Covid-19 strain and the vaccine roll-out in India, HEAL HEALTH organised episode-14 of HEAL-Thy Samvaad in association with International Council for Control of Iodine Deficiency Disorders (ICCIDD).

Speaking on the dynamics of the new strain, Amitav Banerjee, Professor & Head of Community Medicine, Dr DY Patil Medical College, Pune, said: “As far as the new strain of Covid-19 is concerned, it’s good for us Indians to follow our own data based on the emerging cases, and conduct research and not rely on western data and the rate of occurrence there.”

He added: “Relying on western data might lead us to trouble as the demographic conditions of India are quite different from the western countries. The ongoing recovery rate of Covid-19 in India is 99 per cent vis-à-vis the global average rate of 97 per cent...Therefore, in India, we need to wait and watch and be selective in terms of vaccination and (there’s) no need to panic because of the new strain of Covid-19.”

Also read: CDC to ramp up genome sequencing of Covid-19, says report

Speaking on the nature of the virus and its mutation tendencies, Dr Samiran Panda, Head, Epidemiology and Communicable Diseases Division & Director and Scientist of ICMR-National AIDS Research Institute (NARI), said: “High transmissibility does not necessarily go hand-in-hand with high virulence.”

Dr Panda added: “In fact, a virus can be called a smart or a fit virus, while through the process of evolution and mutation, it takes a form when it is capable of getting transmitted easily from one of its hosts to another. However, the same mutant virus also requires its host to remain alive so that it can survive on the host, and more specifically, the living cells of its host that the virus attaches to and enters.”

Adding further, he said: “A balanced symbiotic relationship thus evolves over a period of time in which a virus goes from an epidemic existence to an endemic one and with less virulence potential.”

Speaking on the latest Covid-19 strain and the efficacy and need of vaccination, Dr (Prof) Sanjay Rai, Professor, Dept. of Community Medicine, AIIMS, and President, IPHA, said: “There is no need to be panic about the new strain of Covid-19; it’s not as virulent as the reports are coming in.”

He added: “Over a period of time, our natural infection will also help protect us. Vaccines in India are about to be rolled out. Perhaps, we are moving towards herd immunity because in India the cases are coming down. One classic example is the Dharavi slum of Maharashtra.”

Dr C Suri, Director, Department of Pulmonary, Critical Care & Sleep Medicine, Fortis Hospital, Vasant Kunj, New Delhi, elaborated on the new Covid-19 strain and the vaccine conundrum. He believes that the new strain will be more contagious but there is a lack of evidence that the strain is more deadly.

Hence, he speculated that the vaccines should work against all strains of the virus. However, it is better to take precautions from the new strain.

Also read: Four types of Covid-19 variants are circulating

He said: “People should go for institutional quarantine. This variant is not virulent. If it is spreading fast with virulence, it will help India develop herd immunity.”

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Published on January 04, 2021
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