Pre-Diwali COVID Scare: Omicron’s BQ.1 Subvariant Detected in Pune

In a major health scare, the first case of Omicron’s BQ.1 subvariant was detected in Pune on Monday.

NEW DELHI | Updated: 18 October, 2022 7:42 pm IST
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In a major health scare, the first case of Omicron’s BQ.1 subvariant was detected in Pune on Monday. BQ.1 is the dominant variant that is behind the spike in COVID infections in the US. It is a variant of Omicron’s BA.5. Omicron’s BA.5 subvariants BQ.1 and BQ.1.1 are identified as dangerous.

Dr Tuhina Goel, clinical director, Defence Colony women’s clinic, while speaking with The New Indian, on the two newly identified variants, said, “The point is they are variants of Omicron. It was already known that these variants were escaping COVID antibodies. Hence, vaccination will give little protection against these new variants.”

“With the Diwali festivals round the corner, one must try and avoid crowded places like markets and social gatherings. Given the festive season, we tend to go lax on precautions. Social distancing is no longer the norm. Such carelessness can lead to a very rapid flare-up in the number of cases.

“Although this is the lowest in the past six months, in terms of positivity rate. Post-Diwali there can be a spike in cases if precautions are not taken right now,” Dr Goel stated. She added that high-risk people like children and the elderly have to take extra care of themselves.

Dr Goel also points out that those attributing the rampant viral infections to weather change might be misdiagnosing themselves. It is very important to get tested if one experiences even mild symptoms to stop the spread. Currently, people are not getting tested.

Internationally, health experts state that BQ.1, which is the descendant of BA.5, is primarily the reason behind the sharp spike in COVID cases in the US. Studies show that the latest sub-variants evade immunity, rendering current vaccine regimens less effective.

Omicron’s sub-variant XBB has already been identified in Singapore. XBB is a ‘recombinant’ lineage amongst BJ.1 and BA.2.75, the omicron sublineages. It spreads fast.

The spread of COVID variants, which are once again spiking up in several countries, is being keenly monitored in several countries.

First named in the month of September, BQ.1 has proved to play a leading role in outnumbering other existing strains in Germany and the US.

Experts here in India are also stressing sewage surveillance systems too.

Experts have cautioned against the possibility of a surge in infections during the festive season. The major VOC reported in India since COVID hit the world are Alpha, Beta, Gamma, Delta, B.1.6 series, AY series, Omicron Series, XE, XM and XJ.

One of the ace American physician-scientists and immunologists, Dr Anthony Fauci, while speaking to international media, stated that the new sub-variant has a “troublesome” doubling time.

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