Sunday, 20 June, 2021

Threat Of New Variants

The second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic has wreaked havoc across the country for the last couple of weeks. Based on the number of virus infections and fatalities caused by it, one can gauge that the pandemic has caused devastation and hit the peak point. The rising number of daily infections and deaths amidst a problem related to oxygen and ventilators impels us to arrive at such a conclusion. After reaching the peak, the virus normally becomes weak. Infection and death rates are supposed to decline. But this line of argument does not always turn true because of mutational ability of the virus, particularly the RNA (ribonucleic acid) virus such as novel coronavirus. When it spreads from one geographical location to another, its genetic property undergoes changes and a new variant of virus emerges.

We have witnessed multiple variants of SARS-CoV-2 virus since it first appeared in Wuhan of China in late December 2019. Different variants have emerged in the United Kingdom (UK), South Africa, Brazil, California of the United States of America (USA) and other parts of the world since then, posing a challenge to the medical science and the governments. As the virus adapts to new climates and places, it comes with ferocity, infecting and killing more people. The mutant virus becomes more dangerous and vaccines prepared for the first version of virus may not be effective for the new strain. This is the point of serious concern which was also raised by the World Health Organisation (WHO) following the second wave of the pandemic sweeping different nations.

Already grappled with the deadly virus, Nepalis should take extra cautions against the pandemic as two new variants-- B.1.617.2 and B.1.617.1-- have been detected here also the other day. According to the Ministry of Health and Population, these findings are based on gene sequencing of samples collected from the patients of 35 districts across the country. B.1.617.2 variant was detected in 97 per cent of the samples and B.1.617.1 variant in the rest three per cent. B.1.617.2 was seen in India while B.1.617.1 in the UK.

When the coronavirus outbreak took place in Nepal for the first time last year, the Health Ministry had reported its variant detected in China. With the two new variants, the three variants of virus may be active across the country now. Experts have warned that the new variants are more infectious and deadlier than the older one. In order to act on this pandemic in time, it is important to increase the genetic sequencing studies of virus to track them. However, even if there are new virus mutations, the preventive strategy remains the same, according to the experts. We need to follow the same basic health safety measures adopted to contain the earlier version of the virus.

The best way to check virus spread is to strictly implement the robust preventive measures. If more and more people get infected, there are more chances of the virus mutating. The positive change in human behaviour is a must. Curbing the pandemic through adherence to the COVID-19 safeguards such as mask wearing, physical distancing, hand washing, limiting the gatherings of people in close proximity and use of good ventilation indoors give the virus fewer chances to spread.