February 3, 2023

BENGALURU EXPRESS

Truth Triumphs

Corona spread: Caution Yes! Panic NO!

GUEST COLUMN: Dr. Prabhudev

Bangalore, Dec. 27: All about New omicron variant BF.7 – Omicron Spawn!
India has reached Herd immunity!
If you are not boosted, go and get a Booster dose immediately!

Is India safe?
The new sub strain of coronavirus- Omicron Spawn has not affected India disastrously even as the first case of this variant was detected months ago. It doesn’t appear to be growing too much elsewhere in the world. In China as per reports about this variant’s characteristics and are indeed concerning.

As of 2 December 2022, India has administered over 2.19 billion doses overall, including first, second and precautionary or booster doses. In India, 95% of the eligible population has received at least one shot, and 88% of the eligible population is fully vaccinated. Indian Vaccines have proved to be Robust!

It is now believed that around 80% of people would have to be vaccinated for the pandemic to be brought to an end. Then statistically, one infected person would then infect less than one other, and the pandemic would peter out as a result.

Omicron Spawn!
BF.7 is a great-grandson of Omicron. BF.7, short for BA.5.2.1.7, is a sub-lineage of the omicron variant BA.5. BF.7 carries a specific mutation, R346T, in the spike protein of SARS-CoV-2 a protein on the surface of the virus that allows it to attach to and infect our cells. Variant BA.5, has been linked with enhancing the capacity of the virus to escape neutralising antibodies generated by vaccines or previous infection.
Omicron – the COVID variant emerged in late 2021. It has rapidly evolved into multiple sub variants. One sub variant- BF.7, has been identified as the main variant spreading in Beijing, and is contributing to a wider surge of COVID infections in China. Unlike China, Despite BF.7’s immune-evasive characteristics, and worrying signs about its growth in China, the variant seems to be remaining fairly steady elsewhere. For example, in the US it was estimated to account for 5.7% of infections up to December 10, down from 6.6% the week prior. The most recent briefing from UK says BF.7 has been de-escalated due to reduced incidence and low growth.

Infectivity and R values
BF.7 is believed to have a basic reproduction number of 10 to 18.6. This means an infected person will transmit the virus to an average of 10 to 18.6 other people. Research has shown that other omicron variants have an average R0 of 5.08. With BF.7 we’ve seen the emergence of a variant – better able to escape immunity from vaccination or prior infection. China’s vaccines rely on an older technology producing fewer antibodies than messenger RNA vaccines.

Due to a low level of immunity in the Chinese population from previous infection, and possibly vaccination too. China has a population that is very large and there’s limited immunity. And that seems to be the setting in which we may see an explosion of a new variant.

Symptoms!
The symptoms of an infection with BF.7 are similar to those associated with other omicron sub variants, primarily upper respiratory symptoms. Patients may have a fever, cough, sore throat, runny nose and fatigue, among other symptoms. A minority of people can also experience gastrointestinal symptoms like vomiting and diarrhoea. BF.7 may well cause more serious illnesses. The emergence of BF.7 and other new variants is concerning. But vaccination is still the best weapon we have to fight COVID.

Make the Booster dose mandatory!
And the recent approval by the UK drugs regulator of bivalent boosters, which target omicron alongside the original strain of SARS-CoV-2, is very promising. We do not have as yet A Bivalent Booster.
India is better placed! Better immunity among Indians! In India high vaccination coverage 88% of both doses and 20% of booster doses and naturally acquired immunity among those who survived past Covid-19 infection, most parts of India did not witness a proportionate rise in BA.5-linked cases.

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