Five residents of a care home in Borsbeek in Antwerp province have been infected with the so-called Indian variants of Covid-19, according to the Flemish Agency for Health and Care (AZG). One of those affected has died.
The variant, proper name B.1.617+ or G/452.V3, first appeared in India in October last year and is thought to be more transmissible than previous variants. The effectiveness of existing vaccines is still being studied.
All of the home’s residents have been fully vaccinated. “It is too early to arrive at any conclusions,” said Joris Moonens of the AZG.
In three of the cases involved in the new outbreak, the Indian variant has been confirmed, and it is supposed the same goes for the other two. One has since died, and another is in hospital.
This is the first time the Indian variant has been found in a care home, according to the VRT. Those infected have been placed in isolation, and the home has suspended all visits for the time being, Moonens said.
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All residents were tested last Monday, and another round of testing will be carried on this Tuesday. At that point, the agency will know if the infection has spread among residents, and if so how far.
In the meantime, the search is on for how the variant virus came into the home in the first place. None of the staff or residents has travelled to India or knowingly had any contact with anyone who has.
“The infected people were questioned and we have not found any travel history to India or any contact with a person with such a travel history,” Moonens said. “So we have no idea how the variant ended up in the care home.”
Vaccination against Covid-19 never offers 100% protection of becoming infected, and the success in the case of new variants is likely to be lower. But it does protect substantially against developing symptoms, in particular the more serious outcomes, including ICU care and even death.
“This is not the first time we have seen an outbreak in a care home that had already been vaccinated,” Moonens said. “We also sporadically see small outbreaks of other variants. Here too the outbreak is limited, although the Indian variant is a cause of concern because we know very little about it.”
And he pointed out that the population of care homes is older and more vulnerable in any case, which is why they were vaccinated first.
“It cannot be ruled out that this person did not, in fact, die of the Indian variant after all,” he said.