Monday, December 5, 2022

Over 300 Omicron subvariants circulating: WHO

COVID is not over. Over 300 subvariants of Omicron are circulating and they all have similar symptoms, the World Health Organisation (WHO) said. Out of these, 95 per cent of those are BA.5 sublineages and 20 per cent of which are BQ.1 sublineages.
The COVID game plan has completely changed since Omicron was detected last winter. Though the variant causes milder infection than its predecessors, the worry is they spread fast and carry immune escape properties.
“There is a lot of diversity in #Omicron right now, with >300 sublineages circulating. 95 per cent of those are BA.5 sublineages, 20% of which are BQ.1 sublineages. We need better surveillance, sequencing & sharing of data so that rapid & robust analyses can be conducted regularly,” WHO’s COVID technical lead Maria Van Kerkhove said.
Kerkhove has been vocal about the need for testing and surveillance ever since COVID was declared a pandemic. “We need better surveillance, sequencing & sharing of data so that rapid & robust analyses can be conducted regularly,” she tweeted.
The ‘classic’ symptoms like – loss of taste and smell are no longer indicators that you have COVID. With Omicron, the symptoms have changed and the ‘common’ signs of the infection are now cough, which grows up to be a chronic cough or bronchitis, fatigue, which is so predominant that a person’s daily life is affected with it, headache, fever, runny nose, itchy throat; which is seen often painful and makes it difficult to swallow food and muscle pain
Several Indian states have been reporting new variants of Omicron, XXB and BQ.1, but they have not led to any significant rise in coronavirus infections and hospitalisations.
XBB is the recombinant of Omicron’s BA.2.10.1 and BA.2.75 sublineages. It was first reported in Singapore and is currently found to be increasing in India.
As of epidemiological week 40 (3 to 9 October), from the sequences submitted to GISAID, XBB has a global prevalence of 1.3% and it has been detected in 35 countries, the World Health Organisation (WHO) has said. Meanwhile, a sub-lineage of XBB with an additional mutation is also detected (XBB.1).
The Indian SARS-CoV-2 Genomics Consortium (INSACOG), in a statement, said it was keeping a close watch on the emergence and evolution of XBB and XBB.1 and any new sub-lineages.
“The community need not panic and adherence to coronavirus appropriate behaviour is recommended in the light of ongoing festivities,” INSACOG said.
Dr Anita Mathew, Infectious Disease Specialist at Fortis Hospital, Mulund, told PTI many of the new patients are asymptomatic. “Many people have incidental COVID-19. In other words, they are visiting the hospital for other health conditions and test positive for the coronavirus infection,” she adds.
Symptoms such as the loss of smell and taste, observed prominently in earlier infections, have not been noticed in many patients. Many of them report cold and cough, which is why there isn’t a lot of testing or self-isolation, Dr Mathew added.
Adding to it, Dr Laxman Jessani, Consultant, Infectious Diseases at Apollo hospitals in Navi Mumbai, said the chances of hospitalisation and ICU admissions are low as the infections are mostly mild.
However, “high-risk groups and elderly people should avoid going out to prevent getting infected, especially in crowded places,” he said, adding that wearing a mask is a must.

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