COVID-19 strain: India's 'Delta' of Coronavirus shows up in Ghana

BY: Enoch Darfah Frimpong

Biomedical Scientists in Ghana say they have detected the Indian strain of Covid-19 also known as 'Delta' in Ghana.

It was detected in travelers who arrived in Ghana and has not been detected in the general population.

A statement dated June 22, 2021 signed by the Director-General of the Ghana Health Service(GHS) Dr Patrick Kuma-Aboagye and issued Tuesday night said, as of now, Ghana has detected six Delta variants of the SARS-CoV-2 (COVID-19 virus) from all samples taken between April and June, 2021 at the ports of entry.

"No Delta variant has been detected from samples taken from cases in the community," the statement said.

Earlier on Tuesday in a radio interview monitored by Graphic Online on Accra based Citi FM, the Head of West Africa Center for Cell Biology and Infectious Pathogens at the University of Ghana, Professor Gordon Awendare said Delta was detected in two travelers who arrived in Ghana in the last two weeks.

They arrived from different countries at the Kotoka International Airport in Accra, he said.

It is only two people as of now. 

The two people have since been quarantined and will continue to be on quarantine until they are negative.

Prof Awendane said even though the Delta variant [Indian variant] has been detected, it is not yet in the general population.

"The general population we still have mostly the UK variant which is the Alpha. So if you are deploying Sputnik and AstraZeneca, it is fine for now."

The Indian strain according to World Health Organization (WHO) is the "variant of concern."

The variant was originally isolated in India but it has now spread across the world and is now the dominant strain in the United Kingdom and several African countries, especially in East Africa.

"As far as we know, it is not too different from the normal COVID in terms of the clinical presentations," Prof Awendare said.

More transmissible 

What is different in the genetic make up is that it is more transmissible than the original variant.

It means that if the original COVID infected let's say 10 people for each infected person, this one will infect maybe 17 or 18 people.

Prof Awendane said if you look at the data from all the different countries, it is the Pfizer vaccine that is able to have a more reliable effect on the newer variants in terms of all levels of protection - from hospitalisation, from death, from infection.

"The Pfizer vaccine seems to be doing better with these new variant in those different levels of protection," he said.

But Prof Awendane stressed that all the other vaccines give assurance of protection against hospitalisation, from death, severe disease and infection.

He said different vaccines provides different levels of protection.

Tracking SARS-CoV-2 variants

According to the WHO, all viruses, including SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, change over time.

Most changes have little to no impact on the virus’ properties.

However, some changes may affect the virus’s properties, such as how easily it spreads, the associated disease severity, or the performance of vaccines, therapeutic medicines, diagnostic tools, or other public health and social measures. 

WHO, in collaboration with partners, expert networks, national authorities, institutions and researchers have been monitoring and assessing the evolution of SARS-CoV-2 since January 2020.

During late 2020, the emergence of variants that posed an increased risk to global public health prompted the characterisation of specific Variants of Interest (VOIs) and Variants of Concern (VOCs), in order to prioritise global monitoring and research, and ultimately to inform the ongoing response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

WHO and its international networks of experts are monitoring changes to the virus so that if significant mutations are identified, countries and the public can be informed about any changes needed to react to the variant, and prevent its spread.

Globally, systems have been established and are being strengthened to detect “signals” of potential VOIs or VOCs and assess these based on the risk posed to global public health. 

SARS-CoV-2 Variants of Concern and Variants of Interest, updated 15 June 2021 by WHO

Variants of Concern

  • Alpha (United Kingdom, Sep-2020)
  • Beta (South Africa, May-2020)
  • Gamma (Brazil,  Nov-2020)
  • Delta (India, Oct-2020)

Variants of Interest

  • Epsilon (United States of America, Mar-2020)
  • Zeta (Brazil, Apr-2020)
  • Eta (Multiple countries, Dec-2020) 
  • Theta (Philippines, Jan-2021) 
  • Iota ( United States of America, Nov-2020)
  • Kappa (India, Oct-2020) 
  • Lambda (Peru, Aug-2020)

Below is a copy of the press statement issued by the Ghana Health Service on the Delta variant

Date: 22nd June, 2021

For Immediate Release.

PRESS RELEASE

Re: Covid-19: Deadly Indian strain detected in Ghana; Sputnik V, AstraZeneca vaccines not effective against it

The Ministry of Health (MoH) and Ghana Health Service (GHS) take note of a publication by myjoyonline.com on 21st June 2021 with the headline “Covid-19: Deadly Indian strain detected in Ghana; Sputnik V, AstraZeneca vaccines not effective against it”.

The Service, hereby, informs the general public that

1. All passengers who test positive at Kotoka International Airport (KIA) are put under mandatory isolation

2. All positive samples are sent for further testing (genomic sequencing) to identify the variants

3. Variants sequenced from samples of positive cases at the Airport do not necessarily end up in the community.

4. As of now, the country has detected six Delta variants of the SARS-CoV-2 (COVID-19 virus) from all samples taken between April and June, 2021 at the ports of entry.

No Delta variant has been detected from samples taken from cases in the community.

The MOH and GHS further inform the general public that the in April 2021, there was a surge in cases at the airport during which period 308 positives were identified.

However, Ghana has not experienced a third wave partly due to the robust surveillance system in place at the ports of entry and strict isolation of all cases detected.

On the issue of vaccines, reports that Sputnik-V and AstraZeneca vaccines are not effective against the Delta strain of SARS-Cov-2 (the virus that causes COVID-19) are untrue. According to Public Health England (PHE) two doses of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine are highly effective against hospitalisation due to the Delta variant and showed no deaths among those vaccinated.

The data also suggest that the AstraZeneca vaccine is effective against symptomatic disease caused by the Delta variant.

A study conducted by Gamaleya Center suggests that, Sputnik-V is more efficient against the Delta variant of coronavirus, first detected in India, compared to other COVID-19 vaccines.

It must be noted that in the midst of global supply shortages, the MOH and GHS are diligently working with Government to ensure that adequate vaccines are procured to protect the population.

The MOH, GHS and the Food and Drugs Authority (FDA) are working collaboratively to ensure that vaccines that come into the country are safe and effective.

The Service would like to urge Ghanaians to take advantage of vaccination when their turn is due while entreating the general public to adhere to the COVID-19 prevention protocols i.e., wearing of face masks, practicing of hand hygiene and physical distancing as part of the strategies Signed

DR. PATRICK KUMA-ABOAGYE

DIRECTOR-GENERAL GHANA HEALTH SERVICE

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