Story at a glance

  • The WHO listed the India COVID-19 strain, B.1.617, as a variant of concern.
  • It now joins the ranks of more contagious strains seen in the U.K., South Africa and Brazil.
  • The CDC listed it as a “variant of interest.”

The World Health Organization (WHO) officially labeled the strain of COVID-19 wreaking havoc in India as a variant of concern in a new interview as estimates of new cases amount to over 366,000.

“The pattern now is that one person in the family gets it, the whole family seems to get it. This is unlike the first wave. And so I think what we’re seeing is more transmissible,” the WHO scientist Soumya Swaminathan told The Wall Street Journal

The variant, denoted as B.1.617, is being studied by scientists worldwide. 

As of May 10, India has recorded more than 22 million cases, with its most severe outbreak occurring since mid-April. Cases have continued to increase since then, along with hospitalizations and deaths.

The influx of new patients with severe COVID-19 infections has been so dire that the country is suffering from a shortage of oxygen tanks for patients with trouble breathing. 

Other variants of concern identified by the WHO and health organizations like the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have emerged from the U.K., Brazil and South Africa.

All of these strains are considered more contagious than the original COVID-19 virus, largely attributed to a mutation in the cell’s binding structure. This facilitates its ability to attach to human cells and cause an infection. 

The CDC has also noted two variants from California as variants of concern. It has listed B.1.617 as a “variant of interest” for now. 


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Published on May 10, 2021