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Places With International Migration, Large Water Bodies Make For Covid-19 Hotspots In India, Says IIT (Mandi) Study

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By: Gopal Puri
Updated: January 7, 2022 15:39
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SHIMLA: As the threat of yet another wave of rapid spread of Covid-19 cases looms large over the country, a group of research scholars from the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT), Mandi, have come up with some significant findings that map the spread of the virus in specific areas.

According to these researchers, the spread of the coronavirus is likely to spread rapidly in places that attract international migration and those close to large water bodies. The study has identified certain susceptible hotspots in this respect. It has  also reviewed  earlier pandemics that struck the country along with the ongoing one. Their findings are based on a study conducted on 640 districts in the country.

Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu, Gujarat, Rajasthan, Karnataka, Delhi, Uttar Pradesh and Andhra Pradesh are some of the states that were covid hotspots at the onset of the pandemic, the study stated. According to these researchers, international migration and travel attributed for a large part of the spread here and hence this aspect has to be monitored more closely to restrict further spread.

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Their study found a common pattern between the Spanish Flu (1918-1919) the H1N1 flu (2014-2015) and Covid-19(2019-2021.

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Water bodies have a strong influence on the region’s microclimate in terms of temperature and humidity contributing significantly to regional climate change, commonly known as the ‘lake effect’. The research was led by Dr. Sarita Azad Associate Professor, School of Basic Science IIT Mandi, and co-authored by Neeraj Poonia Research Scholar.

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According to Dr. Sarita Azad, a remarkable similarity can be seen between the focal point and route of transmission of various epidemics in the country, such as Spanish flu, swine flu and covid -19, and almost all of these epidemics were found concentrated in the northern, western and southern parts of India. Districts with direct access to large water bodies had a sudden increase of up to 800 per cent in cases during the monsoons compared to the previous season. She  warned that strict precautionary measures should be taken before the onset of the monsoon season, during the outbreak in these districts.

To understand the spread of covid-19 in these areas, the temperature variation in those districts which are close to large bodies of water has been investigated. The average minimum and maximum temperatures in these districts are about 3 and 5 degrees Celsius lower than the neighbourhood,in the month of July which has attributed to the lake effect. Hence, the cold climatic conditions may have contributed to the increase in covid cases close to water bodies.

Researchers have also estimated the RO values, which is the basic reproduction number in epidemiology, for these districts as of August 31, 2020 and the results show that their RO values are much higher than that of the primary hotspot states. The high RO observed in these districts during monsoon indicates that priority should be given to people in these areas if vaccinations are available.

Though the transmission rate remained stable across the country during winter, the northern regions saw the highest spike in the number of cases. Researchers also identified states and districts where the government should take a more tailored and targeted approach in the event of future outbreaks.

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