SCIENTISTS WATCHING THE BA.2 lineage of the Omicron variety, which is the most common in the country, are also looking into the clinical link between this variant and hospitalizations.
While this sub-lineage has taken the place of the Delta variety, preliminary findings suggest that it may cause death in some individuals. The Centre had started investigations in ten labs to see if there was a link between Omicron’s BA.2 sub-lineage and hospitalizations.
Institutions like AIIMS-New Delhi, Lok Nayak hospital, IGIMS-Patna, NIBMG-Kolkata, CMC-Vellore, Gandhi Medical College-Secunderabad, Kasturba Hospital for Infectious Diseases-Mumbai and B J Medical College-Pune have been involved in these studies.
“While more data is being collected to further understand how clinical markers of severity such as the use of oxygen, mechanical ventilation and deaths are associated with the Omicron variant, preliminary findings do show that Omicron can be fatal in some people. The severity also increases with age and in presence of underlying medical conditions,” medical experts claimed.
For instance, at one hospital around 86 hospitalised patients infected with the Omicron variant were studied apart from five deaths that were due to Omicron.
Recently, the World Health Organisation (WHO) while stressing the importance of vaccination, social distancing, avoiding crowds and wearing well-fitted masks had in its tweet cautioned that infection caused by the Omicron variant can be mild or serious and for some people, the symptoms can also lead to death.
The BA.2 sub-variant of Omicron has been detected in Denmark, the UK and now accounts for approximately one in five new Omicron cases recorded across the world, WHO said.
Dr Sujit Singh, Director, National Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) told The Indian Express that there is no severity as far as BA.1 or BA.2 sub-variant is concerned. “We have detected BA.2 in more than 80 per cent of the samples that were sequenced last month. However, we are seeing an increase in daily discharges at hospitals and the number of new admissions are also decreasing. So, there is reason to believe it is not causing severe disease in India…,” Dr Singh said.
In Maharashtra, an analysis of Covid deaths is underway. “There have been incidental deaths and the cause has to be ascertained,” an official said. Maharashtra, which has had a high number of infections, is on alert and is also stepping up genome sequencing of Covid samples. “Omicron has caused deaths. The BA.2 lineage could have different presentations. Experience in some countries has not been good and we are on alert,” Dr Pradeep Vyas, State Additional Chief Secretary (Health) told The Indian Express.
Overall, more than 11 lakh new Covid-19 infections were reported in the last two months. The mortality rate from December 15 to date, however, has been about 0.1 per cent. According to a state health department analysis in Maharashtra from January till mid-February, there have been 1,690 deaths. Of the 1,690 deaths, 470 were in the 71-80 age group while 378 were in the 61-70 age group. Another 277 deaths were in the 81-90 age group.
Dr Shashank Joshi, an expert member of the state’s Covid-19 task force said that neither the BA.1 nor BA.2 Omicron sub-lineages have shown any sinister potential and the Omicron wave is currently receding. “We did have mortality in some vulnerable and immuno-compromised groups but otherwise there is no reason for panic…,” Dr Joshi said.