Here is what we know.
The B.1.617 variant was first detected in India around October 2020. So far there are three sub-strains of this variant which differ slightly in terms of mutations.
On May 12, all three sub-strains were classified as “variants of concern” by SPF. The World Health Organization has also classified them as variants of concern.
Preliminary data suggests the strains are more contagious than the original SARS-CoV-2 virus and may be more resistant to immune responses, but the data remains patchy, SPF says.
There have been 24 clusters (of at least one case) of Indian variants found in France, as of May 11.
The term cluster, or sometimes episode, refers to a hyper-local spread of the variant. For example, if two people living in the same household test positive with the variant, it would be a cluster. If five people living in the same household test positive, it would still be a cluster. If a person living in a household of four tested positive, it would be a cluster.
The fact that there were 24 clusters found in France does not mean that there were 24 cases. The SPF does not specifically state how many people have tested positive for the variant, but the clusters are normally very small, involving at most a few people.
Indian variants have been found in eight different regions of France – seven in mainland France and one in Guadeloupe.
The first case was found in early April.
Over the past three weeks, there has been an increase in the number of clusters detected, with between four and eight reported each week, SPF said.
Two of the 24 clusters detected have no link with a person returning to France from India, which suggests a local spread of the variant.
The SPF says the situation is being closely watched.
The sub-strain known as B.1.617.2 is responsible for 18 of the 24 clusters.
It is the sub-strain that grows in the United Kingdom. So far, more than 1,300 cases have been detected there.
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