Even though India recently recorded its lowest number of new Covid-19 cases in six months, the country has also identified two new sub-variants of the Omicron strain — BF.7 and BQ.1. Meanwhile, another variant called XBB has been making inroads in India. The BQ.1 sub-variant was on Monday found for the first time in the country in a patient’s sample from Pune.
The SARS-CoV-2 sub-variant BQ.1 is descended from Omicron’s BA.5, which is the predominant strain in the US at the moment. BF.7, another Omicron sub-variant, was earlier found in Gujarat. It was first discovered in the Inner Mongolian area of China. Cases are expected to rise in the upcoming Diwali season as people are expected to be lax in Covid prevention protocols and not maintain social distancing.
The Union health ministry has ordered mask mandates, Covid-19-appropriate behaviour and protocol, while also appealing to specialists to monitor the virus’ evolution after the sub-variants were reported in Maharashtra, West Bengal, Odisha, Tamil Nadu, and Kerala.
What Symptoms Do You Have To Look Out For?
The Omicron sub-variants have a shorter incubation period, thus the symptoms may start to show up quickly after the virus has been contracted. An extremely sore throat, which is sometimes accompanied by scratchiness and a burning sensation, is one of the worst symptoms. Cough, exhaustion, congestion, and a runny or blocked nose are the other symptoms.
The extremely contagious BF.7 subvariant, in particular, has symptoms ranging from chest pains and smell disorders to hearing difficulties.
What Do The Health Experts Say?
Dr. Sanjay Dhall, Director of Internal Medicine at Max Hospital in Shalimar Bagh, Delhi, discussed the new Omicron subvariant with Livemint and stated, “Omicron BF.7 was previously the subject of a warning from the World Health Organization (WHO), which said that it was expected to replace the current dominant variant.”
The coordinator for genome sequencing in Maharashtra, Dr. Rajesh Karyakarte, told IndianExpress.com, “Researchers will determine this week whether it is clinically severe…”
Maharashtra surveillance officer Dr Pradeep Awate said the state has for the first time disclosed BA.2.3.20 and BQ.1, two offsprings of the Omicron variant. A state official said, “We have discovered these variations as part of the genome-sequencing operations,” adding that these sub-variants had several mutations, but that for now, nothing is known about the potential severity of the condition. One in 10 new cases in the US are BQ.1 sub-variant instances, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
A News18 article stated that the Omicron subvariants are resistant to numerous Covid-19 antibody therapies and mainly evade neutralising antibodies in the blood, citing the most recent study that was published in The Lancet Infectious Diseases journal.
Researchers at Karolinska Institutet in Sweden warned that unless the population’s immunity is strengthened by the new bivalent vaccinations, there is a possibility of a spike in Covid infections over winter.
Uncertainty exists on whether the new variants may lead to major sickness and lead to more hospitalisations. “New Covid-19 versions with mutagenic potential are anticipated. The situation has changed; previously there was no vaccine, but now individuals have had vaccinations and have built up an immunity to the virus,” according to Dr. Randeep Guleria, former director of AIIMS and chairman of the CII Public Health Council.
What Precautions Should You Take?
Dr. Randeep Guleria recommended people to keep using masks in crowded places and stated there is a minimal likelihood of contracting a serious illness that would require hospitalisation or ICU admission.
As nations experience a sharp increase in Covid cases due to the development of the Omicron strains, Union health minister Mansukh Mandaviya has emphasised the need of monitoring entry points.
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