Need to probe if mutant strain active in Kerala, Maha: Guleria

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At a time when the new cases of Covid-19 have been manifesting a downward trend nationally, its unabated transmission in two Indian states — Kerala and Maharashtra — have become a cause of worry.

The data of last one week by the Union Health Ministry showed that both the states account for 71 per cent of the fresh caseload of the week with Kerala making up almost half of the total.

Of the total 80,536 new cases reported in the duration, Kerala and Maharashtra accounted for 56,932 whereas the southern state logged 39,260 cases (49 per cent) alone.

Speaking on the matter, Dr. Randeep Guleria, Director, All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS), New Delhi, evoked the possibility of an undetected mutant strain of Sars-CoV-2 circulating in the two states.

“We will have to investigate whether any mutant strain of coronavirus is under circulation in the state which is causing spurt in the daily infection,” he told IANS.

In respect of Kerala, Guleria, who is also a member of the National Covid-19 task-force, acknowledged that the state did a fairly good job in controlling the transmission when pandemic hit the country. However, he added that the situation deteriorated since the restrictions were lifted in the state.

“Kerala did initially good in controlling the measures through putting restrictions. However, since they have opened up, the more number of cases are being reported there,” Guleria said.

He also observed that the demography of the state could be possibly not letting the viral infection wane from the community since a significant amount of the population living in Kerala are elderly and are more susceptible to contract the Covid-19 disease.

“A large number of people there (Kerala) are elderly and suffer with comorbid conditions. This fact could also be impacting the emergence of Covid-19 in the state,” said Guleria.

As per the latest national family health survey (NFHS) report, the level of asthma (4,806 per 1,00,000 population) in Kerala is twice as high as the level reported for India as a whole (2,468 per 1,00,000 population).

Dr, Lalit Kant, former head, epidemiology and communicable diseases, Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) told IANS that demography plays a huge role in disease spread. “Age structure of the population and presence of chronic illnesses among them are few of the deciding factors of a disease spread,” he said.

Dr. Kant said the prevalence of chronic illnesses and the share of elderly population is quite high in Kerala and Maharashtra. He quoted NFHS-5 findings which indicated that every third person in Kerala and every fourth person in Maharashtra is obese. “In Kerala, up to 38 per cent of the population was found obsese while it was reported 25 per cent in Maharashtra,” Kant said.

“Similarly, Diabetes is also quite high in both states. Kerala accounts for 27 per cent while 12 per cent in Maharashtra found exhibiting the disease,” he added.

Former ICMR chief also shared that 30 per cent of Kerala’s population are patients of hypertension while its prevalence in Maharashtra’s population is around 25 per cent.

As per NFHS-5, the projected percentage of population above 60 years in 2021 of Kerala is 16 per cent while it is 11 per cent in Maharashtra.

Few days ago, the Centre deputed two multi-disciplinary teams to Kerala and Maharashtra to take stock of the ground situation and recommend necessary public health interventions to the states for containment of Covid-19 pandemic there.

–IANS

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