As this year draws to a close, there is panic once again with a spike in COVID-19 cases. The concern currently originates from the highly transmissible Omicron subvariants — XBB, BQ.1, and the latest BF.7.
The year started with a peak observed in January 2022. However, post that, there was a 90 per cent decline in the number of reported weekly deaths, as per World Health Organization (WHO) director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus.
The tides seem to be reversing now with rising apprehensions over the current situation among healthcare providers and the community at large.
A closer look at the current Omicron variants of concern
The coronavirus mutates as it survives in nature. In this process, it creates its lineages and sub-lineages as its branches. Currently, it is the XBB, BQ.1, and the latest BF.7 that are gaining the spotlight.
XBB: Reported with a global prevalence of 1.3 per cent, with infection detected in about 35 countries, XBB is a recombinant of BA.2.10.1 and BA.2.75 Omicron sub-lineages.
There is only early evidence of its severity and infection risk levels to guide specific activity from healthcare providers or investors. However, current data suggests that it is not particularly severe, as the healthcare ecosystem has witnessed with Omicron already. It is mainly impacting those individuals who were infected in the pre-Omicron period.
BQ.1: This variant is reported to have a global prevalence of 6 percent, with infections detected in about sixty-five countries. It is one of the faster-growing variants and requires close monitoring, However, even for BQ.1, there's no increased severity in the disease noted so far.
BF.7: This is the newer sub-lineage of the Omicron sub-lineage BA.5. Rising cases of its infection are noted in Japan, the Republic of Korea, China, Brazil, and the United States of America. Currently, it is causing more infections among the elderly with low immunity or prevailing health conditions and children for whom healthcare providers need to be more alert.
For all these subvariants, the transmission mode, signs, and symptoms overlap with the previous Covid variants. Common manifestations of the infection continue to include fever, sore throat, cough, body aches, fatigue, and headache.
Does the community need to worry?
As per the WHO, there may be reduced protection offered by vaccines. So, in terms of risks of the disease spreading, it does require being on guard by the masses.
However, there is respite in knowing that no epidemiologic data currently suggests an increase in disease severity. Moreover, the treatment for these subvariants resembles the already-followed treatment for Omicron.
The next steps remain unaltered
At this time, the next step advised by healthcare providers is simply following the safety precautions with sincerity. This includes ensuring the administration of timely vaccinations and booster doses. Healthcare providers are advising this, especially for those travelling.
Whenever in a crowd - indoors and outdoors, all individuals are requested to ensure the use of masks and practice strict social distancing. In addition, in case of any flu-like symptoms or illness, it's best to isolate and get tested to contain its spread.
Reference available on request.
Kinzal Jalan is an experienced B2B content marketer with demonstrated expertise in Health, SaaS & Technology.