A.P. strain at least 15 times more virulent

The new variant has shorter incubation period and the progress of the disease is much rapid

While it is too early to state whether the new coronavirus variant discovered by CCMB (Centre for Cellular and Molecular Biology) N440K, is the variant that is creating havoc in Visakhapatnam and other parts of the State, experts say the new prevalent variant, which is being called as the AP strain as it was first discovered in Kurnool, is at least 15 times more virulent than the earlier ones, and may be even stronger than the Indian variants of B1.617 and B1.618.

“We are still to ascertain, which strain is in circulation right now, as samples have been sent to CCMB for analysis. But one thing is certain that the variant at present which is in circulation in Visakhapatnam is quite different from what we have seen during the first wave last year,” said District Collector V. Vinay Chand, who has been updated by senior doctors in the health department.

Confirming the enhanced power of the virus, District COVID Special Officer and Principal of Andhra Medical College P.V. Sudhakar said, “We have observed that the new variant has shorter incubation period and the progress of the disease is much rapid. In the earlier cases, a patient affected with the virus would take at least a week to reach the hypoxia or dyspnea stage. But in the present context, patients are reaching the serious condition stage within three or four days. And that is why there is heavy pressure on beds with oxygen or ICU beds,” he said.

Experts also point out that unlike during the first wave, a shorter exposure is enough to acquire the virus, which enables an infected person to infect four to five persons, within a shorter contact span.

“Most essentially, none is spared, as we have observed that it is affecting the younger population in a big way, including those who are fitness freaks and have high immunity levels. It is also observed that cytokine storm is occurring faster, and some are responding to treatment and some are not,” said Dr. Sudhakar.

According to the experts the bottomline is — this variant is highly unpredictable.

The best way to keep it at bay is to follow COVID-appropriate behaviour of wearing good mask, keeping away from gatherings, sanitising hands regularly and staying home as far as possible, said Hema Prakash, senior microbiologist from GITAM Institute of Medical Sciences and Research.

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