The COVID-19 strain in India is officially a ‘variant of concern.’ Should you be worried?
India’s coronavirus crisis continues as the World Health Organization labeled a mutation there a concern
The World Health Organization announced this week that the COVID-19 variant circulating throughout India is a “variant of concern” for the entire world, Reuters reports.
- This label suggests that the COVID-19 variant has the “highest public health implications” for the entire world, CNBC reports.
India’s COVID-19 crisis
India has been suffering from a massive second wave of COVID-19 cases, as I reported for the Deseret News. One state in India — called Goa — has seen a 50% positivity rate of COVID-19 cases in recent weeks, showing the damaging impact of the virus.
- “The sky-rocketing COVID-19 infections are devastating India’s communities and hospitals. Everything is in short supply — intensive care unit beds, medicine, oxygen and ventilators. Bodies are piling up in morgues and crematoriums, and authorities have been forced to hold mass cremations at makeshift sites,” according to CNN.
What to know about the India variant
India’s second wave has been sparked, in part, by a double mutation, which combines the L452R mutation — which was originally discovered in California — and the E484Q mutation, as I explained for the Deseret News.
Dr. Maria Van Kerkhove, the COVID-19 technical lead at the WHO, said the variant could be transmitted easier between people and reduce COVID-19 vaccine effectiveness against it.
- “We are classifying this as a variant of concern at a global level,” she said, according to Reuters. “There is some available information to suggest increased transmissibility.”
This doesn’t mean public health measures and COVID-19 vaccines won’t work against the variant. But it could mean that the virus could still find a way to spread in larger numbers compared to normal mutations.
- “We don’t have anything to suggest that our diagnostics, our therapeutics and our vaccines don’t work,” Kerkhove said, according to CNBC.
- “Even though there is increased transmissibility demonstrated by some preliminary studies, we need much more information about this virus variant and this lineage and all of the sub-lineages,” she said, per Reuters.