New COVID Variants Increase in Proportion of Cases
By: Naveen Athrappully
October 19, 2022: The proportion of people getting infected with the new BQ.1 and BQ.1.1 variants of COVID-19 is rising, according to the latest data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
The BQ.1 and BQ.1.1 subvariants—descendants of the BA.5 omicron variant—were recently added to the CDC’s COVID-19 variant list. Between Oct. 7 and 15, BQ.1 and BQ.1.1 variants combined made up 11.4 percent of the total infections in the United States, CDC data shows. Both variants separately accounted for 5.7 percent of cases.
The proportion of BA.5, the variant which is responsible for the largest number of infections in the country, made up 67.9 percent of total cases, down from 74.8 percent in the week ending Oct. 8.
In places like New Jersey and New York, the proportion of BQ.1 and BQ.1.1 variants is higher, making up close to 20 percent of total cases. As the variants have popped up in the CDC tracker prominently only this week, some see the development as a sign that the strains are able to spread faster.
In an interview with CBS, Anthony Fauci, the president’s chief medical adviser, said that the BQ.1 and the BQ.1.1 variants have a “troublesome doubling time.” He also raised the possibility of the variants being able to evade certain medications due to their mutations.
“That’s the reason why people are concerned about BQ.1.1, for the double reason of its doubling time and the fact that it seems to elude important monoclonal antibodies,” Fauci said.
As COVID-19 has developed into more transmissible strains, it has become less severe.
BQ.1 was first named by scientists last month. Both BQ.1 and BQ.1.1 were not listed in the CDC’s earlier weekly variant reports as they only made up less than 1 percent of cases, the agency’s spokesperson Kristen Nordlund said in a statement, according to CBS.
The two subvariants are expected to soon overtake BA.4.6, the only other strain outnumbering them other than BA.5. Outside the United States, BQ.1 variants have already outpaced other rival strains in countries like Germany and England.
In an interview with San Francisco Chronicle, UC Berkeley infectious disease expert John Swartzberg said he expects BQ.1.1 to become the dominant strain in the United States.
“It is perhaps the most immune evasive subvariant circulating,” he said. “This makes it the leading contender to overtake BA.5 in the next few weeks.”
However, Peter Chin-Hong, an expert in infectious diseases, is not expecting hospitalizations and deaths this winter to be at the level seen in the last two winters since the overall population is very “immunologically experienced” right now.
Source: The Epoch Times (Premium)