As cases of COVID-19 surge in Maharashtra, samples from about eight districts have been sent to laboratories across the country, including the National Institute of Virology and National Center for Disease Control, to find out if any new variant is behind the increasing number of cases.
The advisor to the state for COVID control Dr Subhash Salunke said, “The ICMR has not been able to clearly come out whether is there any new mutant virus or not, that study is being done at NIV and NCDC and other few laboratories in the country, 8 districts of Maharashtra have already sent the required number of 100 samples per district. Results of these studies will be available to us maximum by the end of this week or maybe in another 8 to 10 days. After that, we will be able to confidently state whether the mutation has taken place, if the indigenous strain has mutated and if it is there then what type of mutation it is etc.”
The transmission of cases has increased rapidly in some districts of the Vidarbha region. Districts such as Amravati have been reporting over 20 per cent positivity rate in the last few days.
“Our finding shows that transmission rate has increased, in some cases the whole locality or a family is affected. Even last time when cases were at the peak we could not see such a trend even in Pune or Mumbai, but we could see this picture in Amravati or Yavatmal this time. The positivity rate in Amravati and surrounding areas has gone up to 20% to 25% hence one thing is clear that something is wrong with the virus because the behaviour of the people is the same everywhere in every district. This change is the clear indication that some changes in the virus are there but exact details of the changes will be clear once we get the scientific data after study.” said Dr Salunke.
Earlier samples tested at BJ Medical college laboratory in Pune have shown that the UK and Africa strain are not the reason behind the sudden surge of cases in parts of Maharashtra, however, scientists at multiple laboratories across the country are also working to find out if any indigenous variant of the virus is behind the spike.
Dr Salunke also cautioned the authorities about the possible spread of this virus to other states if it is not controlled in time.
“It is also showing concentrated spur in some of the areas like Vidarbha region and now it is slowly getting transmitted to other districts such as Pune and even Mumbai. If we don’t control it right now it may spread to other states because the potential is there,” Dr Salunke said.
However, he said that proper treatment is available to patients and added that the present treatment strategy is working well.
He also added that clinicians across the country have treated lakhs of patients last year and are clear about the treatment for patients.
Dr Subhash Salunkhe also chairs the Maharashtra Communicable Diseases Prevention and Control Technical Committee. He was the former director general of health services, Maharashtra and WHO chief of Indonesia.