Twenty one cases of the 'Delta plus' variant of COVID-19, considered highly infectious, have been found in Maharashtra so far, state Health Minister Rajesh Tope has said.
The highest nine cases were reported in Ratnagiri, followed by seven in Jalgaon, two in Mumbai, and one case each in Palghar, Thane and Sindhudurg districts, Tope told reporters on Monday.
He said 7,500 samples from different parts of the state were collected and sent for laboratory testing.
These samples were collected since May 15 and their genome sequencing was done, the minister said.
What is the Delta variant?
Variants are mutations of the coronavirus. Scientists say viruses constantly mutate naturally as they replicate and circulate in their hosts. Sometimes these mutants disappear; other times they persist.
The Delta variant known as B.1.617.2, is gaining ground around the world and is said to have contributed to the country’s recent surge. Some time we can see a mutation in the mutated variant this are called as double mutation.
According to WHO and CDC, the viruses which are prevalent in the United States, Europe, South America, and another part of Africa as well as in the Asian region are of different mutants. The variant prevalent in the US is called Alfa, Beta and Theta was prevalent in South America and Africa. Theta and Gamma were prevalent in European countries.
Delta was prevalent in India and Asia by large, which has now spread to other nations too. Kappa variant was prevalent in Australia. Now, people should know that the Delta wave hasn’t come in the Second Wave only. It was there in the First Wave as well. However, coronavirus is an RNA virus and is in constant mutation with increasing transmissibility and virulence.
Genome sequencing allows the tracking of small mutations in SARS-CoV2, the virus that causes COVID-19, meaning chains of transmission can be identified.
The scientific process also assists in identifying missing links in the chain of transmission.
Tope said complete information about the people detected with the 'Delta plus' variant is being sought, including their travel history, whether they were vaccinated or not, and if they were reinfected.
Their contacts are being traced and tested, the minister said, adding that information on the mutation of Delta and Delta plus variants is also being scrutinised.
Last week, the Maharashtra health department made a presentation where it said the newly identified 'Delta plus' variant may trigger a third wave of the pandemic in the state.
Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray, state COVID-19 task force members and health department officials had attended the presentation.
The new Delta plus variant has been formed due to a mutation in the Delta or B.1.617.2 variant, first identified in India and one of the drivers of the deadly second wave.
Though there is no indication yet of the severity of the disease due to the new variant, Delta plus is resistant to the monoclonal antibody cocktail treatment for COVID-19 recently authorised in India.
On Monday, Maharashtra reported 6,270 new coronavirus cases, a four-month low daily count, taking its COVID-19 tally to 59,79,051, while 94 deaths pushed the toll to 1,18,313, as per the state health department.
(With inputs from PTI)