Amravati surge due to mutation, people's carelessness: Maha official

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Mumbai, Feb 19 (PTI) A spike in COVID-19 cases in Amravati district of eastern Maharashtra could be because of a coronavirus mutation which is more infectious, but people's carelessness is the bigger reason, a senior health official said on Friday.

Amravati has witnessed the sharpest spike in cases in the state this week. The number of new cases in the district jumped from 82 on Tuesday to 230 on Wednesday.

Dr Subhash Salunke, technical adviser to the Maharashtra government on the COVID-19 outbreak, said those with comorbidities are at a greater risk due to a virus mutation found in samples from the district.

'The mutated virus is more infectious and triggering pneumonia early. If a person has pre-existing health conditions, such type of infection could increase the risk of death. However, it is only a possibility, and the district so far has not reported any spike in death toll,' he said.

Dr Salunke, however, also said that 'complete carelessness' on people's part was the main reason for the spike. In many cases, people from the same family have tested positive, he noted.

'This means they are exposed to infection during the same period. It could happen only at some public function, gathering, etc, where COVID-19 protocols has been ignored,' he said.

The state government was focusing on contact tracing and increase in RT-PCR tests to tackle the surge in cases, he added.

On Thursday, an official had said that researchers had found two new mutations in coronavirus samples from Amravati and Yavatmal districts of eastern Maharashtra after genome sequencing.

These mutations were characterized by the virus' ability to escape neutralizing antibodies in the host person's body, said Dr Rajesh Karyekarte, head of the Department of Microbiology at the state-run B J Medical College in Pune.