Health officials say we need to be paying close attention to COVID outbreak in India

Could India surge impact U.S. situation?

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WBRC) - Covid-19 cases are falling across the country, but that trend is not global, as a new outbreak is flooding India’s healthcare systems right now with many different variant strains circulating.

Local infectious disease experts said we need to be paying close attention to COVID-19 outbreaks, like the one happening right now in India, because new variants can form during outbreaks and very easily make it to Alabama.

“A virus isn’t eliminated anywhere until it’s eliminated everywhere,” UAB Infectious disease expert Dr. Michael Saag said. “I think we should expect more variants to emerge. Especially because of these large outbreaks like what is occurring in India right now.”

He said the outbreak in India creates a large opportunity for new variants to emerge.

“The virus is very opportunistic,” Saag said. “It takes advantage of lots of people crowded around together, lot of transmission happening.”

He said it’s especially concerning with travel increasing.

“When the outbreaks are happening in these other parts of the world, it is very easy for those variants to travel,” Saag said. “We travel a lot. We are going to be reengaging in that activity and as we do, if there are outbreaks in any pocket of the world, they could be brought back to the United States.”

Saag said if new variants form, they may not be covered with the current vaccines.

“The possibility of an emerging variant that our vaccines do not cover well is a very compelling reason for us to engage in countries all over the world and help them get vaccines to their population as well,” Saag said.

Saag said helping prevent outbreaks everywhere is the only way to truly eliminate the virus.

“We live in a global environment,” he said. “We can focus on ourselves, but in the long run, we need to focus on the entire world.”

The United States sent India relief packages that arrived there on Friday, April 30th. President Biden is promising more than 100 million dollars in support with oxygen and masks.

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