India's first two cases of Omicron found in Karnataka

Both the patients are men aged 66 years and 46 years with mild symptomsBoth the patients are men aged 66 years and 46 years with mild symptoms

Credit: iStock Photo

India on Thursday reported its first two cases of the Omicron variant of SARS-CoV-2 from Karnataka including what could well be the first case of local transmission of Omicron in India, officials in the Union Health Ministry and state administration said on Thursday, adding that both were males of age 66 years and 46 years.

One of them came from South Africa – the first country to report Omicron last month – whereas the second individual is a Bengaluru doctor without any travel history, whose Omicron-positive status raises the possibility of local transmission of the new variant that has been described as a “variant of concern” by the World Health Organisation. Both were fully vaccinated.

“Two cases of Omicron have been detected in Karnataka so far. We need not panic, but awareness is absolutely essential and Covid-19 appropriate behaviour is required,” said Balram Bhargava, director general of Indian Council of Medical Research.

The 66-year-old South African national reached Bengaluru on November 20 and tested positive. The 46-year-old doctor tested positive on November 22. Both gave their samples for testing before the WHO described Omicron as a “variant of concern” on November 26.

Read: Will Omicron be more contagious than Delta?

While the South African traveller left the country after two Covid-negative test reports and a week-long stay, it is the second case of the 46-year-old government hospital anaesthesiologist that has perplexed doctors and civic body officials as he had no travel history.

Since he did not have any known contact with any international passenger or their contacts, his source of infection is yet to be ascertained.

As per BBMP records, the doctor developed fever and body ache on November 21 and underwent an RT-PCR test a day later at a city hospital in the morning. He was declared Covid positive in the afternoon on the same day.

Since his test report indicated high viral load (CT value of 13), his sample was sent for genome sequencing. He stayed under home isolation for two days and was admitted to a south Bengaluru private hospital, which discharged him on November 25.

The doctor has 13 primary contacts including his 38-year-old wife and 205 secondary contacts. Between November 22 and 25, three primary contacts and two secondary contacts tested positive. All have been isolated. The doctor and his wife are now at the state-run Bowring and Lady Curzon Hospital.

The South African generated 24 primary contacts and 240 secondary contacts, though was in self-isolation in a hotel. All the 24 primary contacts have been tested negative.

“The confirmation of Omicron by India, the first two cases in WHO South-East Asia Region, was not unexpected in view of the interconnected world that we live in. This emphasises on the need for all countries to step up surveillance, to be on alert and rapidly detect any importation and take measures to curtail further spread of the virus,” said Poonam Khetrapal Singh, Regional Director, WHO South-East Asia Region.

The South African traveller was screened and tested at the Kempegowda International Airport on his arrival and was found positive. He checked into a star hotel in Vasanthnagar, where a government doctor visited him and found asymptomatic. On November 22, his test samples were collected and sent for genomic sequencing by the BBMP.

“Omicron variant has a large number of mutations, some of which are concerning. Researchers around the world are conducting studies to better understand transmissibility, severity and immune escape capabilities of Omicron. The WHO commends countries which have been able to quickly detect and report cases of the new variant of concern,” Singh said.

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