Omicron subvariant BA.5 is still behind a majority of COVID-19 cases in the United States, but its descendant strains are catching up — especially subvariants BQ.1 and BQ.1.1.
The two new strains may have qualities that allow them to “evade some of the interventions we have,” Dr. Anthony Fauci, the president’s chief medical adviser, told CNBC last week.
What do we know about BQ.1 and BQ.1.1?
Together, the new subvariants, which were discovered a few weeks ago, make up 16.6% of reported cases in the U.S., while BA.5 and BA.4.6 are behind 62.2% and 11.3% of reported cases.
“As much as you want to feel good about the fact that cases are down, hospitalizations are down, we don’t want to declare victory too prematurely,” Fauci said.
“And that’s the reason why we’ve got to keep our eye out on these emerging variants.”
As I previously reported, Fauci had noted that with a variant like BQ.1, the “doubling time” is concerning.
“Whenever I hear about a new variant, I ask myself three questions: 1. It is more transmissible? 2. Is it immune invasive, meaning that vaccines and monoclonal antibodies may not work quite as well? 3. Does is cause more serious disease?” explained Dr. Peter Chin-Hong, an infectious disease specialist at UCSF, per ABC affiliate KABC.
Right now, the only question answered is the first: “BQ.1 and BQ.1.1 seem to be more transmissible than its parent BA.5,” he said.
That isn’t necessarily a cause for concern, he added, since vaccines are more up to date and there’s greater knowledge about the coronavirus than there was at the beginning at the pandemic.
What are the top omicron symptoms to look out for?
As I previously reported, omicron subvariants have a shorter incubation period, which is why the symptoms may appear earlier. The worst symptom is a “throat on fire,” said University of California, San Francisco’s Dr. Peter Chin-Hong.
The most common omicron-related symptoms are:
- Runny nose.