The variant is thought to be up to 60 per cent more transmissible than the Alpha variant identified in Kent, which swept across the UK over the winter.
Covid-19 case rates have increased across every region in England according to the latest figures from Public Health England (PHE), with the now dominant Delta variant having fuelled the rising infections.
Doctors treating coronavirus patients in India have now identified some new symptoms which they believe could be linked to the variant, as they have not been associated with other strains.
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What are the symptoms of the Delta variant?
Medics have warned the virus is becoming more “unpredictable” as new variants continue to emerge, with some patients now experiencing more unusual symptoms.
Doctors think that gangrene, hearing loss and severe gastric upsets could be caused by the strain first identified in India.
Abdul Ghafur, an infectious disease physician at the Apollo Hospital in Chennai, has said he is now seeing more patients with diarrhoea compared to the first wave of the pandemic, the Mirror reports.
Six leading doctors treating patients across India have also identified the following more common symptoms of the Delta strain:
- Stomach pain
- Loss of appetite
- Hearing loss
- Joint pain
As for the new, more unusual symptoms, Ganesh Manudhane, a Mumbai cardiologist, has said some patients develop severe small blood clots, which causes affected tissue to die and develop gangrene, Bloomberg reports.
Mr Manudhane explained that two of his patients had to have their fingers or a foot amputated due to health complications, and added that while he only saw three or four cases of gangrene last year, he is now seeing one patient every week.
If gangrene is left untreated for 24 hours, the chances of survival drop to 50 per cent, Medics warn.
The condition can affect any part of the body but typically starts in the toes, feet, fingers and hands, with signs including redness and swelling, and pain or sores in the affected area.
Hetal Marfatia, an ear, nose and throat surgeon at Mumbai’s King Edward Memorial Hospital, also explained how some patients in India have reported hearing loss, swelling around the neck and severe tonsillitis due to the Delta variant.
Where are Covid-19 cases rising?
The latest weekly data from PHE shows that Covid-19 case rates have sharply increased in the North West in the week to 6 June, rising from 89.4 cases per 100,000 people to 149.6.
This is the highest for the region since the week ending 21 February and is the highest of any region in England.
Blackburn with Darwen in Lancashire continues to have the highest rate, with 937 new cases in the seven days to 6 June, the equivalent of 625.9 cases per 100,000 people, while Rossendale in Lancashire is not far behind with a rate of 327.4, with 234 new cases.
Hyndburn, also in Lancashire, has the third highest rate at 320.8, with 260 new cases.
By comparison, the South West currently has the lowest rate in England, at just 20.8, up week-on-week from 9.7.
While case rates have increased among almost all age groups in England, PHE said there has been a spike among 20 to 29-year-olds, with rates increasing from 54.0 in the week to 30 May to 121.0 in the week to 6 June.
PHE medical director Dr Yvonne Doyle said: “Once again we are seeing cases rapidly rise across the country and the Delta variant is now dominant.
“The increase is primarily in younger age groups who are yet to receive the vaccine and we are seeing more hospital admissions.
“The vaccine rollout is a huge success, however there are many millions who still need one or two doses and protection is not immediate.
“Therefore, follow the guidance and remember it is safer outside. Practise good hand hygiene and wear face coverings in enclosed spaces.”
The World Health Organization (WHO) also warned on Thursday (10 June) that the Delta variant is “poised to take hold” across Europe. The warning comes as many countries prepare to ease restrictions, allowing more social gatherings and travel across borders.
The WHO’s Hans Kluge said the variant has shown signs of being able to evade some Covid-19 vaccines and warned that many vulnerable populations, particularly those over the age of 60, remain unprotected.
Dr Kluge has now called for vaccination and other public health measures to be stepped up across the continent, saying even immunisation coverage “is far from sufficient to protect the region.”
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