India’s epidemiologists have warned the Delta strain that’s been sweeping their country — and which has emerged in Victoria — is 50 per cent more contagious and will need a global effort to contain.
The highly virulent mutation also appears to infect people who have been vaccinated and those who have previously contracted the coronavirus.
The scientists stressed that a “strong public health response will be needed globally for its containment” in a report from the Indian SARS-Cov-2 Genomics Consortium (INSACOG) and National Centre for Disease Control.
The Delta strain has been tearing through India and taking over in the UK where daily cases reached its highest tally in three months with 6238 and India reported another 132,364 daily infections — a declining trend.
The global warning comes as authorities in Australia are racing to find who seeded an outbreak of the strain in Victoria after seven Delta infections were revealed on Friday — the first time it was on the loose in the community in Australia.
Health detectives are combing through virus samples and genomic sequencing from across the country to determine how a Victorian family of four contracted the hyper-contagious strain.
They are also re-examining strains in quarantine and cases linked to maritime, airline and diplomatic travellers.
The seven Delta-infected people include a family of four from west Melbourne who appear to have passed it on to three members of another west Melbourne family.
The transmission link between the two families is thought to be two children who were in grade five at North Melbourne Primary School.
But it’s not known how or where the first family picked up the highly virulent strain and where it was seeded.
The possibility that the family, who travelled to Jervis Bay in NSW in late May, picked up the infection while interstate has not been ruled out.
Chief Health Officer Brett Sutton said the Delta strain has not been linked to any of the other cases in the current outbreak, which means it is not related in terms of transmission.
Delta variant takes over
The fast-moving variant has spread to some 54 countries and was the driver behind India’s deadly second wave, accounting for most infections in worst-hit states, broadcaster NDTV reported.
There were 12,200 “variants of concern” in India but their presence was miniscule compared to the Delta variant that replaced all other variants in the second wave, the science panel said.
There was no evidence, however, that the Delta variant caused more deaths as the increase in fatalities could be due to factors such as the collapse of India’s healthcare system.
Infections in India jumped from 10 million at the beginning of the second wave in February to over 28.5 million, placing it second to the United States.
India logged 132,364 cases on Friday, but experts believe that the second wave is on the wane with a decline from the peak of 400,000 daily cases in early May.