The Ministry of Health in Kenya announced yesterday that the Indian variant of the virus which causes COVID-19 has been identified in Kenya. The Indian variant of SARS-CoV-2 which is designated as B.1.1.7 variant has been isolated from 30 samples from patients in Kenya. The samples were isolated from patients in Kisumu, Nairobi, and Mombasa.
The patients had history of travel to India. So far there is no local transmission.
Kenya has isolated the South African and the UK variants in Kenya and it is only recently that the Indian variant has been isolated in Kenya. The variant has been classified as a variant of concern by the World Health Organization.
The Indian variant of SAR-CoV-2 is partly responsible for the large number of cases in India. These variants spread much faster than the previous virus. It also causes a much severe form of the disease.
The symptoms of the disease after infection with this variant appear much earlier (average time from exposure to development of symptoms is 3-5 days), the oxygen requirements are much higher than the previous circulating strains. The virus transmission is much higher, and it is estimated that one patient may transmit the disease to three other persons.
The variant has caused havoc in India and has overwhelmed the hospitals. The variant has been isolated in over 40 countries in the world.
The local spread in Africa is difficult to predict since it requires Geno sequencing which is not readily available in Africa.
Members of the Jamaats must take appropriate measures such as use of face masks and social distancing to prevent COVID-19 infection. They must also take stricter infection control measures when they encounter COVID-19 patients.
The effectiveness of the vaccine against the new variant is not yet established, thus even those who have been vaccinated must use the face masks and practice social distancing, and also maintain high level of hygiene like frequently washing of hands using soap with running water.
Dr. Shanaaz Sharif
Chairman – Central Health Board of Africa Federation
13th May 2021