Delhi’s first Omicron case a 37-yr-old man with mild symptoms
The first case of the Omicron variant was detected in Delhi early on Sunday, even as 16 more such infections were detected in Rajasthan and Maharashtra through the day, officials said, taking the number of reported infections of the heavily mutated variant of Sars-CoV-2 in India to 21.
Hundreds of close contacts of the known cases are under surveillance or are being sought for testing and isolation across the country, amid global alarm over the Omicron variant that has rapidly spread from South Africa, where it was first detected, to dozens of countries.
The person from Delhi recently travelled to Tanzania, while a family from Jaipur in Rajasthan has a travel history from South Africa, and the two clusters in Maharashtra recently visited Nigeria and Finland, officials said.
Till Saturday night, a total of four cases of the variant had been detected in the country – two in Karnataka, and one each in Maharashtra and Gujarat. After Sunday’s additions, the total cases of the variant swelled to 21, with four states and the national capital having reported infections.
Sunday’s first case was reported in Delhi when a man who had returned from Tanzania tested positive, said Delhi health minister Satyendar Jain. The 37-year-old has been isolated in the Delhi government-run Lok Nayak Hospital, officials said. According to officials at the hospital, the fully vaccinated patient has so far only exhibited mild symptoms such as sore throat, bodyache and weakness.
“So far, 17 Covid-19 positive cases have been found (that are being monitored for the Omicron variant), and all these patients have been admitted to Lok Nayak Hospital,” said the Delhi health minister. Six people who came in direct contact with these 17 positive patients have also been admitted to Lok Nayak’s isolation ward, and currently are under observation.
“A total of 12 samples had been sent to the National Centre for Disease Control. One was found carrying the Omicron variant. The patient is an Indian and had returned from Tanzania a few days ago,” according to an official quoted anonymously by news agency PTI. According to the official, the patient’s travel history was being collated, and contacts being traced.
Lok Nayak hospital is the designated centre for isolation of those suspected to have been infected with Omicron in the Capital.
Later in the day, seven people were found infected with the Omicron variant in Maharashtra’s Pune district. The samples of six people tested positive for the variant in Pimpri-Chinchwad (on the outskirts of Pune city) and one in Pune. The Pimpri-Chinchwad cluster included a 44-year-old Nigerian national of Indian origin, her two daughters, her brother, and his two daughters, officials said. The infection in Pune was reported in a 47-year-old-man who travelled to Finland last month.
The nine people who tested positive for the variant in Jaipur included four members of a family who recently returned from South Africa, while the remaining five were their acquaintances, state officials said.
Maharashtra health minister Rajesh Tope said on Saturday that the third wave of Covid-19 infections could be of the Omicron variant in Maharashtra if precautions were not taken. He added that the new strain was mild and didn’t cause severe disease that required mass hospitalisation. To be sure, neither of those characteristics are confirmed and scientists are carrying out studies to establish whether the variant is more transmissible, resistant or virulent.
Much remains unknown about Omicron, which was first identified in South Africa on November 8. It was subsequently labelled as a variant of concern by the World Health Organization on November 26.
Dozens of countries have imposed travel restrictions on southern African nations since it was discovered. The variant has already gained a foothold in Europe, Africa, the Americas, Asia and Europe. Many governments rushed to tighten travel rules to keep the variant out.
Experts have stressed that more time is needed to determine if cases of this variant progress to the severe stage, or if vaccines would need to be reworked to combat it. They say that aggressive screening is a good way to keep the numbers low.
“How many people will be infected, and how many will need hospitalisation and how many will succumb to the infection will depend on the nature and status of individual immunity (natural infection-related/vaccine-related/hybrid) and how much we as a community will adhere to the Covid protocols. Even if the percentage of affected people or complications might be low; with increased transmission - the absolute numbers could be overwhelming,” said Dr Anup R Warrier, head, Infectious Diseases and Infection Control, Aster DM Healthcare’s India Units.
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