Alarmed by the detection of several variants of coronavirus in Jharkhand with 328 confirmed cases surfacing so far, the state government has directed the authorities to despatch samples within 48 hours of a patient's death for conducting a genetic study to understand the mortality rate and evolve a strategy to contain the spread, a top official said today.
Battling the second wave of the COVID-19 that has claimed 5,100 lives in Jharkhand, the state government is concerned as these variants like Delta, Alpha, and Kappa are said to be more transmissible.
"As many as 328 of the 364 samples have tested positive for variants like Delta, Alpha, and Kappa in the state in the course of whole genome sequencing," State Health Secretary, Arun Kumar Singh told PTI.
Whole genome sequencing (WGS) is a laboratory process that is used to determine nearly all the approximately 3 billion nucleotides of an individual's complete DNA sequence, including non-coding sequence which is instrumental in characterising the mutations and tracking disease outbreaks.
Of the 328 positive cases, 194 cases are of Delta variant B.1.617.2 which is a "variant of concern", Mr Singh said.
A variant can be labelled as "of concern" if it is more contagious, more deadly, or more resistant to current vaccines and treatments, the World Health Organization had said.
"This variant is significantly more transmissible and somewhat resistant," the official said.
Twenty-nine cases were found to be of B.1.617.1 variant which has been named Kappa, the health secretary said, adding that 29 cases are of B.1.1.7 Alpha variant.
The Alpha variant is also a strain "of concern" as it spreads more rapidly than the original strain.
Apart from these, a few other variants of coronavirus have also been detected in the state, Mr Singh said.
A maximum of 145 cases have been detected from Jamshedpur followed by 56 from capital Ranchi. Both districts have been witnessing a high number of Covid cases and deaths.
Dhanbad accounted for 49 cases of the variants, Hazaribagh for 48 and Palamu for 30, he said.
"For identifying the strains of the virus prevailing in the community, the state has sent 364 positive stored RT-PCR samples to Regional Genome Sequencing Laboratory (RGSL), Institute of Life Sciences (ILS) Bhubaneshwar for WGS," State Chief Epidemiologist Dr Praveen Kumar Karn told PTI.
The samples were sent from Ranchi Institute of Medical Sciences, IRL, Itki Ranchi, District Palamu Medical College, and Mahatma Gandhi Memorial Medical College, Jamshedpur which have been identified as Sentinel Surveillance Sites.
"This sequence will help in better planning for the future and alert the Health Department to plan for better management of the patients," Dr Karn said.
A total of 537 samples had been sent to ILS Bhubaneswar between March and April 2021 for WGS out of which 364 were processed.
In a letter to heads of the sentinel surveillance sites, the health secretary mentioned, "All labs are directed to get the SRF ID of the death cases from the District Administration and send the respective samples for WGS within 48 hrs.
"Therefore samples of all those patients who have died on or after 1st April 2021 shall mandatorily be sent for WGS to ILS, Bhubaneswar. Hence, all identified sentinel sites are directed to kindly comply with all activities for combating this large outbreak COVID-19."
Chief Minister Hemant Soren said that even though the rate of recovery is more than 98 per cent in the state, the danger is not over. "According to experts, the third wave may trouble us in six to eight weeks and the state government has made preparations for it but it would not be possible without the help of people", he added.
The number of active coronavirus cases in Jharkhand stands at 1,489 and the death count has reached 5,100.
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