Viruses are constantly evolving via mutations. Sometimes, these mutations give rise to new virus variants with certain special traits. Most often, these mutations allow them to spread more rapidly and develop resistance to the existing treatments and vaccines. This case is also seen with the Coronavirus (Coronavirus new variants). Read more Coronavirus or covid-19 protection
Through viral genomic surveillance, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) quickly identifies and tracks COVID-19 variants. This helped to offer the best treatment and precautionary protocol to combat the pandemic at the beginning. Yet, with the drop in COVID-19 cases in recent months, lapses in these strategies have become quite frequent. This, combined with the mutation of the SARS-CoV-2 virus, continued to create the perfect condition for deadly new variants to emerge. Read more Human Coronavirus: Outbreak and Prevention
Severe gaps in COVID-19 testing, vaccination drives, and easing COVID-19 testing requirements and quarantine are the major players behind the recent rise in cases. The fresh outbreak of cases started in China due to a cocktail of viruses. These include BF.7, BN and BQ series, XBB, and SVV series.
Coronavirus new variants
XBB is a recombinant subvariant, a sub-lineage of the Omicron variants BA.2.10.1 and BA.2.75. The severity of the disease caused by this variant is similar to that of Omicron. However, it has a higher risk of reinfection. Read more Omicron: Why is this COVID-19 variant concerning?
Another subvariant is XBB.1, associated with many cases in India. XBB and XBB.1 are considered the most immune-evasive variants to date, evading the immune response of the vaccines currently being used to treat COVID. BQ.1 and BQ.1.1 are direct descendants of BA.5 that contain genetic mutations, making them harder to recognize by the immune system. Evidence from France has also proven that these variants are not associated with increased hospitalizations and mortality rates.
The other latest variant that is wreaking havoc in the US is the BN.1 strain. This variant has an R346T substitution, a mutation in the spike protein of the SARS-CoV-2 virus. As per the Cancer Center’s Bloom Lab, this variant is associated with increased chances of immune escape.
The other variant (Coronavirus new variants) that has gathered the globe’s attention in the past few months is the BF.7. The full form of this variant is BA.22.214.171.124, a sub-variant of Omicron’s BA.5 variant. Through reports from China, it has been concluded that BF.7 is the most dangerous of all the Omicron sub-variants. It has the highest transmissibility rate with a very low incubation period. BF.7 is believed to have a reproductive number between 10 to 18.6, which means that each infected person can spread the virus to 10 to 18 people. This value is comparatively higher when compared to that of Omicron which had a reproductive number of 5.08. Read more Omicron: Why is this COVID-19 variant concerning?
Symptoms of infections from Coronavirus new variants
The classic symptoms of COVID by these variants are:
- Runny nose
- Blocked nose
- Persistent coughs
- Body ache
- Loss of smell
- Sore throat
- Shortness of breath
- Chest pain
- Pink eye
- COVID toes
- COVID reinfection
Symptoms of COVID-19 by these variants are prolonged in unvaccinated people. Also, severe disease manifestations are seen in people with diabetes, weakened immune systems, or immunocompromised individuals. Older adults are also at a higher risk of exhibiting intense symptoms and might require hospitalization. Read more Coronavirus- How to protect yourself and your family
Some of the precautionary measures that must be followed to prevent the spread of the virus (Coronavirus new variants) are:
- Observe appropriate COVID-19 behavior at all times.
- People suffering from influenza and flu-like symptoms should avoid public places and contact others as much as possible.
- Get vaccinated at the earliest.
- Wear masks at all times, especially at public gatherings, social and political events, markets, and while traveling in public transport.
- Maintain a social distance of at least 1 meter from others, even if they don’t appear sick.
- Regularly wash your hands with soap and water, and keep sanitizing your hands at frequent intervals.
- Avoid spaces that are closed, crowded, or involve close contact with others.
- Cover your nose and mouth with a bent elbow or tissue when coughing or sneezing. Dispose of the used tissues immediately and wash your hands thoroughly.
- If it is impossible to avoid crowds or indoor meeting settings, then ensure that the place is well-ventilated by opening the windows.
- Clean and disinfect surfaces frequently, especially those regularly touched, like door handles, faucets, and phone screens.
If you feel unwell, then follow the mentioned measures:
- If you have a fever, cold, or difficulty breathing, seek immediate medical assistance.
- Stay at home and self-isolate for ten days after the onset of symptoms and three days after the symptoms cease.
In the US, the latest outbreak of COVID-19 cases is attributed to the dominant variant BQ.1.1 (Coronavirus new variants). The infectious disease expert has revealed that over 66,045 cases are reported daily in the United States, with the test positivity rate lying around 12%. The BA.5 variant is associated with over 50% of the cases in Nebraska, while the BQ.1. variant makes up about 14% of the patients in Nebraska.
The CDC director has also revealed that at least 8.7 million illnesses, 78,000 hospitalizations, and 4,500 deaths from flu have been reported so far this season. The rates of COVID-related hospitalizations also increased by about 15-20% in the last week of November 2022.
China is also currently hit by highly transmissible Omicron strains, especially BA.5.2 and BF.7. The country’s capital, Beijing, is hit by the rapidly spreading strain, BF.7, which has led to overcrowding the hospitals. In addition, it is also reported that there is an increased rush at the crematoriums in Beijing and other cities. The director of China’s CDC has stated that more than 130 Omicron sub-lineages had been detected in China in the past three months, including BQ.1 and XBB strains. While these strains have caused no severe cases, Chinese epidemiologists predict that the cases will peak in January and February 2023.
Coronavirus new variants in other countries
Other countries witnessing a surge in COVID-19 cases are Japan, South Korea, Brazil, Germany, and France. Japan is experiencing a drastic rise in COVID cases as it registers more than 2 lakh new cases every day. South Korea, on the other hand, is showing steady growth in the cases reported in the past weeks amid the winter wave.
As of December 2022, South Korea has reported more than 68,000 cases. Brazil has also joined this group with its increasing number of cases in the past few weeks. Germany and France also see a rise in cases, with over 40,000 cases registered in Germany in the past few days. In contrast, France depicts many alarming numbers, with over 10 lakh cases reported in the past 28 days alone.
Scenario in India (for Coronavirus new variants)
The overall caseload of COVID-19 in India rose by about 11% from the previous week’s tally of 1,103 to 1,219. In particular, there is a slight increase in cases in parts of Maharashtra’s northern states like Rajasthan, Punjab, Delhi, Himachal Pradesh, Telangana, and West Bengal. While it remains unclear if the rise in cases is associated with the new virus sub-variants (Coronavirus new variants), the government has begun laying out several measures to tackle this outbreak. Read more Maharashtra COVID vaccination centers
As of the last week of December 2022, the weekly and daily positivity rates stood at 0.18% and 0.32%, respectively, in India. The Centre has also asked all COVID hospitals in the states and union territories to conduct mock drills as a part of the precautionary measures. Comparing the last week of December 2022 with the previous one revealed that 16 states and UTs reported an increase in weekly cases.
The other nine states revealed little difference in the number of cases, while the remaining 11 reported fewer cases this week. Even in the states where cases increased, Rajasthan and Punjab were the only ones to report a rise of more than 30 cases each. In stark contrast, Kerala saw a decline of 31 cases this week. However, experts suggest that this decline might be due to the festive season and anticipate getting a clearer picture of this wave in the first half of January 2023. It has also been revealed that only a few BF.7 have been reported in India until December 2022.