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India recovering from coronavirus disease with less than 11K cases daily

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NEW DELHI When the coronavirus pandemic spread to India, it feared it would sink the fragile health system of the world’s second most populous country. Infections increased dramatically for months and at one point India seemed to be able to surpass the United States as the country with the highest number of cases.

But infections began to fall in September, and now the country is reporting about 11,000 new cases a day, compared to a peak of nearly 100,000, leaving experts confused.

They have suggested many possible explanations for the sudden drop seen in almost every region including that some areas of the country may have achieved herd immunity or that Indians may have a pre-existing protection against the virus.

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The Indian government has also partly attributed the decline in masked clothing cases, which is mandatory to the public in India and the violations attract hefty fines in some cities. But experts have noted that the situation is more complicated as the decline is uniform although mask matching is being observed in some areas.

More is more than just an intriguing enigma; determining what lies behind the decline in infections could help authorities control the virus in the country, which has reported nearly 11 million cases and over 155,000 deaths. About 2.4 million people have died worldwide.

People wait outside a health center to test for COVID-19 in New Delhi, India, on Thursday, February 11, 2021. When the coronavirus pandemic spread to India, there were fears it would sink the world’s fragile health system - the most populated.  Infections increased dramatically for months and at one point India seemed to be able to surpass the United States as the country with the highest number of cases.  But infections started to fall in September, and experts are not sure why.  (AP Photo / Manish Swarup)

People wait outside a health center to test for COVID-19 in New Delhi, India, on Thursday, February 11, 2021. When the coronavirus pandemic spread to India, there were fears it would sink the world’s fragile health system – the most populated. Infections increased dramatically for months and at one point India seemed to be able to surpass the United States as the country with the highest number of cases. But infections started to fall in September, and experts are not sure why. (AP Photo / Manish Swarup)

“If we do not know the reason, you can unknowingly do things that could lead to an explosion,” said Dr. Shahid Jameel, who studies viruses at Ashoka Indias University.

India, like other countries, lacks many infections and has questions about how it counts its deaths from the virus. But tensions in the country’s hospitals have also dropped in recent weeks, a further indication that the spread of the virus is slowing. When registered cases exceeded 9 million in November, official figures showed that nearly 90% of all critical care beds with fans in New Delhi were full. On Thursday, 16% of those beds were occupied.

This success cannot be attributed to vaccinations since India started administering shots in January, but as more people get a vaccine, the prognosis should look even better, although experts are also concerned about the variants identified in many countries. that seem to be more contagious and I do some treatments and vaccines less effective.

Among the possible explanations for the drop in cases is that some large areas have reached herd immunity threshold at which many people have developed immunity to the virus, getting sick or being vaccinated, that the spread is starting to slow, said Vineeta Bal, e which studies the immune system at the National Institute of Immunology India.

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But experts have warned that even if herd immunity in some countries is partly responsible for the decline, the population as a whole remains vulnerable and must continue to take precautions.

This is especially true because the new study suggests that people who became ill with one form of the virus may be able to become infected again with a newer version. Bal, for example, noted a recent survey in Manaus, Brazil, which estimated that over 75% of people there had antibodies to the virus in October before cases rose again in January.

“I do not think anyone has the final answer,” she said.

And, in India, the data is not so dramatic. A nationwide survey of antibodies by Indian health agencies estimated that around 270 million, or one in five Indians, were infected with the virus before vaccinations began, well below the 70% or higher rate that experts say that it may be the threshold for coronavirus, although even this is not certain.

“The message is that a large part of the population remains vulnerable,” said Dr. Balram Bhargava, who heads India’s main medical research body, the Indian Medical Research Council.

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But the survey provided another insight into why India’s infections could fall. He showed that more people were infected in India’s cities than in its villages, and that the virus was moving more slowly through the inner rural area.

“Rural areas have lower crowd densities, people work in more open spaces and homes are much more airy,” said Dr. K. Srinath Reddy, President of the Public Health Foundation of India.

If some urban areas are moving closer to herd immunity wherever that threshold lies and also restricting transmission through masks and physical distance and thus are seeing cases of decline, then perhaps the low speed at which the virus is passing through rural India may help in explaining sinking numbers, Reddy suggested.

Another possibility is that many Indians are exposed to a variety of diseases throughout their lives, cholera, typhoid and tuberculosis, for example, are prevalent and this exposure can lead the body to a stronger, initial immune response to a virus. new.

“If the COVID virus can be controlled in the nose and throat, before it reaches the lungs, it does not become so serious. Innate immunity works at this level, trying to reduce the viral infection and stop it from going to the lungs,” he said. Jameel, of Ashoka University.

Despite the good news in India, the rise of new variants has added another challenge to efforts here and around the globe to bring the pandemic under control. Scientists have identified several variants in India, including some that have been blamed for causing new infections in people who already had an earlier version of the virus. But they are still studying the implications for public health.

Experts are considering whether the variants may be spurring an increase in cases in the southern state of Kerala, which was previously touted as a virus treatment plan. Kerala now accounts for almost half of the current COVID-19 cases in India. Government-funded research has suggested that a more contagious version of the virus may be in play and efforts to sequence its genome are ongoing.

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With unclear reasons for India’s success, experts are worried that people will give up their guards. Large parts of India have already returned to normal life. In many cities, markets are growing, streets are crowded and restaurants are almost crowded.

“With the diminishing numbers, I think COVID ‘s worst is over,” said MB Ravikumar, an architect who was hospitalized last year and recovered. “And we can all breathe a sigh of relief.”

Probably not yet, said Jishnu Das, a health economist at Georgetown University who advises the state of West Bengal on treating the pandemic.

“We do not know if this will return in three to four months,” he warned.

___

The Associated Press Department of Health and Science receives support from Howard Hughes’s Scientific Education Department. AP is solely responsible for all content.

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