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Double-mutant Covid-19: An infectious disease specialist answers FAQs

Published on:23 April 2021, 14:15pm IST
An infectious disease specialist from Mumbai answers why the second wave of Covid-19 is deadlier and the role of the double mutant Covid-19 strain.
Nikita Bhardwaj
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double mutant strain
When it comes to Covid-19, staying at home is a privilege. Image courtesy: Shutterstock

From social media to news channels, Covid-19 is everywhere. Dead bodies lying outside crematoriums, healthcare workers on the job round the clock, doctors coming out on social media requesting people to stay at home, and finally, a series of lockdowns and curfews. And yet, every day the situation is spiralling out of control. 

Not so long ago, it looked like things were getting back to normal. But here we are again, cursed by new strains of the Covid-19 virus–and instead of things recovering as a nation, we are hitting rock bottom. 

According to the Union Health Ministry of India, currently there are 24,28,616 active cases (as on 23rd April 2021) in India. And we all are well aware of the fact that this second wave is leading to more fatalities than before. The reason? The rampage of the new strains in India.

These strains are so lethal that they are leading to some hard hitting symptoms, and are not being detected by RT-PCR tests. So much so that you need a CT scan to see what the virus is doing to the lungs. Apart from this, Covid pneumonia is becoming another cause of concern.

Shortage of oxygen, unavailability of beds, and in many cases recklessness of people are creating hysteria. Sadly, the vaccination drive isn’t enough because people are getting infected even after getting both the doses. According to new reports, Covaxin by Bharat Biotech can neutralize the new strains but the lack of trust that’s building day by day.

Amidst all this confusion there are a lot of questions that go unanswered. That’s why we got in touch with Dr Vikrant Shah who is a consulting physician, intensivist, and an infectious disease specialist at Zen Multispeciality Hospital, Mumbai and asked him everything about this new strain. Come let’s read what he has to say.

Q 1: How dangerous is this new Covid-19 strain that is gripping India?

We all know that this virus is not the earlier one and it is very important to understand the origin of this new one.

According to Dr Shah, the double mutant strain B.1.617 variant contains mutations from two separate virus variants called E484Q and L452R.  This variant was reported last year in India. This double mutant was found in the saliva samples that were gathered from people in Maharashtra, Punjab, and even Delhi. 

Double-mutant Covid-19
Vaccination is the only way to manage Covid-19 right now. Image courtesy: Shutterstock

“E484Q and L452R are known to be highly infective owing to the high transmission rates. Hence, the B.1.617 is known to be life-threatening. L452R variant was first seen in the US, while the E484Q variant is said to be indigenous,” he says.

Q 2: Are these new strains more deadly? Which one is a deadlier UK strain or double mutant?

According to Dr Shah, double mutants are the one who is responsible for the rising number of deaths in India.

“The new variant called the double mutation may be fueling India’s deadlier new wave of infections that have led to a surge in Covid-19 cases. The B.1.61.7 variant is becoming the dominant virus in many parts of all over the world and is more infectious than the UK original strain,” says Dr Shah.

He also mentioned that young people are the ones who are mostly targeted and that’s really very sad for a developing country like India.

“Young people and children are getting infected with Covid-19. Red eyes, dry mouth, nausea, gastrointestinal problems, and nausea are some of the symptoms seen in the younger population. Not following Covid protocol may be the reason behind this. Mortality in younger patients is higher and their lungs are getting affected rapidly,” warns Dr Shah.

Q 3: How would someone know whether s/he have been infected by the UK strain or the double mutant?

“The double mutant strain is affecting youngsters and taking a toll on their lungs. New symptoms like conjunctivitis and gastrointestinal problems are seen, while cough, chest pains, fever, loss of taste and smell, and chills are seen in the ones infected by the UK strain,” suggests Dr Shah.

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Q 4: People are getting infected even after getting vaccinated? Why is that so? Do our vaccines work on these new strains?

“Some people who have got them vaccinated may contract the virus but will not get severely ill or require hospitalization. Yes, the vaccines work against the US strain and the new strains. People fail to follow the Covid-19 protocol like masking, social distancing, and hand sanitizing when they get vaccinated. This may be the reason behind people getting infected after taking the jab,” says Dr Shah.

He added, “If you get infected with Covid after taking the first dose then you will have to be in touch with your doctor about when to take the second dose. Your doctor is the right person to tell you what you need to do.”

Q 5: People are asked to stay at home. Don’t you think going to a hospital to get vaccinated is much more dangerous?

“When you go to the hospital to take the jab, you must ensure that you take enough measures to keep Coronavirus at bay. Be assured as even the hospitals are following the Covid-19 protocol by limiting the visitors, maintaining social distance, masking and disinfecting frequently surfaces from time to time,” says Dr Shah.

Q 6: If someone gets infected by any of the new strains, can s/he recover by self-isolation?

He said, “You will be required to be in touch with your doctor and do what the doctor tells you to. Do not delay in seeking treatment. If the infection is mild then you can self-isolate at home.  But, if there is a high viral load then gets you admitted to the hospital and seeks prompt treatment.”

Double-mutant Covid-19
We have to fight harder against this new covid-19 variants. Image courtesy: Shutterstock
Q 7: Are there some tips to deal with these mutated strains?

“Masking, washing hands, being away from sick people, following cough etiquette, disinfecting frequently touched surfaces, and boosting immunity to fight the virus can do the trick,” recommends Dr Shah while signing off.

Bottom line is that if you want to stay safe you have to follow all the basic rules and adhere by the guidelines of lockdown or curfew. This is the only way we can curb the entry of this deadly virus to our homes.   

So stay home and stay safe!

Nikita Bhardwaj Nikita Bhardwaj

Six-pack abs are all that Nikita needs, along with her daily dose of green tea. At Health Shots, she produces videos, podcasts, stories, and other kick-ass content.