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Dramatic reduction in Indian virus cases confuses experts

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New Delhi (AP)-When the coronavirus pandemic broke out in India, there was concern that it would sink the fragile health care system of the world’s second most populous country. Infectious diseases have increased dramatically over the months, and at some point India appeared to have the potential to overtake the United States as the country with the highest number of cases.

However, infectious diseases began to plummet in September, and the country is currently reporting about 11,000 new cases per day, peaking at nearly 100,000, confusing experts.

They have many possibilities for sudden declines, such as the possibility that some parts of the country have reached herd immunity and that Indians may have existing protection from the virus. Suggests an explanation.

The Indian government has also partially attributed the decline in the case to wearing masks. This is publicly mandated in India, and violations can result in heavy fines in some cities. However, experts point out that the situation is more complex as mask compliance is flagged in some regions, but the decline is uniform.

It’s more than just an intriguing puzzle. Identifying what is behind the reduction in infection can help authorities control the virus in the country, with nearly 11 million cases and more than 155,000 deaths reported. About 2.4 million people have died worldwide.



“If you don’t know why, you may be unknowingly doing something that could lead to a relapse,” said Dr. Shahid Jameel, who studies the virus at Ashoka University in India.

India, like other countries, misses as many infections as it does, and there are questions about how it counts viral deaths. However, the burden on hospitals in the country has also diminished in recent weeks, further indicating that the spread of the virus has slowed. When the number of cases recorded in November exceeded 9 million, official figures showed that nearly 90% of all life-saving emergency beds equipped with a New Delhi ventilator were full. On Thursday, 16% of these beds were occupied.

This success is not due to vaccination, as India just started injections in January. But as more people get vaccinated, the outlook should be even better. However, experts are also concerned about variants identified in many countries that appear to be more contagious. It reduces the effectiveness of some treatments and vaccines.

One possible explanation for the reduction in cases is that several broad areas have reached herd immunity-a sufficient number of people are immune to the virus by getting sick or vaccinated. Is the threshold at which the virus begins to develop and spread, said Vineeta Bal. A person studying the immune system at the National Institute of Immunology in India.

But experts warn that even if herd immunity in some places is part of the cause of the decline, the entire population remains vulnerable and precautions must be taken.

This is especially true. New studies suggest that people infected with a form of virus may be infected again with the new version. For example, Bal estimated that more than 75% of people had antibodies to the virus in October, according to a recent study in Manaus, Brazil. Then, in January, the number of cases surged again.

“I don’t think anyone has the final answer,” she said.

And in India, the data isn’t that dramatic. A national screening of antibodies by Indian health agencies estimates that approximately 270 million Indians, or one in five Indians, were infected with the virus before vaccination began. This is well below the percentage of over 70% that experts say could be the threshold for herds. Immunity to the coronavirus is still uncertain.



“The message is that most of the population is still vulnerable,” said Dr. Barram Bargava, who heads the Indian Medical Research Council, India’s leading medical research institute.

However, this study provided other insights into why India’s infections are declining. It was found that more people were infected in Indian cities than in villages, and the virus was slowly moving in rural hinterlands.

Dr. K. Srinath Reddy, President of the Indian Public Health Foundation, said: “Rural areas are less densely populated, people work in open spaces, and homes are much more ventilated.

If some urban areas are approaching group immunity (wherever the threshold is) and there are cases of falling due to limiting infection through masks or physical distances, The slow speed of the virus passing through the countryside of India may help explain the sinking number, Lady suggested.

Another possibility is that many Indians are exposed to various illnesses throughout their lives. For example, cholera, typhoid fever, and tuberculosis are widespread. This exposure can stimulate the body to initiate a stronger initial immune response to the new virus.

“If the COVID virus can be controlled by the nose and throat, it will not be so serious before it reaches the lungs. Innate immunity is at this level by trying to reduce the virus infection and prevent it from reaching the lungs. It works, “said Jameel of Ashoka University.

Despite the good news in India, the rise of new variants adds another challenge to efforts here and around the world to control pandemics. Scientists have identified several variants in India, including those allegedly causing new infections in people who already had earlier versions of the virus. But they are still studying the impact on public health.

Experts are examining whether variants may be causing the surge in the southern Kerala case, which was previously welcomed as a blueprint for tackling the virus. Kerala now accounts for almost half of India’s current COVID-19 cases. Government-sponsored studies suggest that a more contagious version of the virus may be at work, and efforts are underway to sequence its genome.



Experts are concerned that people will be less vigilant, as the reasons behind India’s success are unknown. Most of India has already returned to normal life. In many cities, markets are booming, roads are crowded, and restaurants are almost full.

“I feel that the worst of COVID is over with the reduction in numbers,” said architect MB Ravikumar, who was hospitalized and recovered last year. “And we can all sigh of relief.”

Jishnu Das, a health economist at Georgetown University who advises West Bengal on how to deal with a pandemic, said it wasn’t there yet.

“I don’t know if this will come back in three to four months,” he warned.

___

The Associated Press’s Department of Health Sciences is supported by the Department of Science Education at the Howard Hughes Medical Institute. AP is solely responsible for all content.

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