Andhra Pradesh: N440K strain 15 times more virulent, say experts
The N440K strain of the coronavirus, called the AP strain as it was first discovered in Andhra Pradesh's Kurnool, is at least 15 times more virulent than the previous strains, say experts.
The variant—which is possibly responsible for the spike in infection in Visakhapatnam and other parts of Andhra Pradesh—is perhaps more virulent than the Indian variants B.1.617 and B.1.618.
New variant has shorter incubation period; disease progresses faster
District COVID-19 Special Officer PV Sudhakar told The Hindu, "We have observed that the new variant has a shorter incubation period and progress of the disease is much rapid."
"In earlier cases, a patient affected with the virus would take at least a week to reach the hypoxia or dyspnea stage," Sudhakar said, adding that patients are now turning serious within three-four days.
Relatively shorter exposure enough to contract virus
Reportedly, as opposed to the first wave, people are now getting infected through shorter durations of exposure, which is leading to increased transmission.
Cytokine storms are now occurring faster and only some people are responding to treatment, Sudhakar said.
The younger population is being significantly impacted, even those who are "fitness freaks" and have great immunity, he added.
Samples sent to CCMB: District Collector
District Collector V Vinay Chand told the publication, "We are yet to ascertain which strain is in circulation right now," adding that samples have been sent to the Centre for Cellular and Molecular Biology (CCMB).
However, he said that "the variant at present which is in circulation in Visakhapatnam is quite different from what we have seen during the first wave last year."
No need to panic, adhere to COVID-19 protocol: Experts
CCMB Advisor Rakesh Mishra told The New Indian Express that the N440K strain—found in 20-30% of samples in Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu, and Telangana—is not a cause of panic as it will fade away in the coming weeks.
Principal Secretary (Health) Anil Kumar Singhal said people should not panic over media reports and follow COVID-appropriate behavior to help curtail the viral spread.
TDP leader Naidu expresses concern over spread; meets leaders
Meanwhile, Telugu Desam Party (TDP) leader Nara Chandrababu Naidu expressed concern over the rapid spread of the AP COVID-19 variant across the state.
He held a discussion with leaders in Vijayawada on Monday.
The availability of beds and oxygen should be escalated without any delay, he said.
He further said that saving the lives of people should be the government's topmost priority.
State to go under 14-day partial lockdown from May 5
In view of the sharp spike in COVID-19 cases in AP, the state government has imposed a 14-day lockdown starting May 5.
Shops and business establishments will be permitted to function from 6 am till noon.
Post noon, people may step out only for emergency services, which are exempt from the curfew.
A night curfew from 10 pm-5 am has already been in place.