US officials concerned about new COVID subvariants
COVID-19 infections from the omicron subvariants designated BQ.1 and BQ.1.1 are growing fast in Europe. And so far, these subvariants account for more than 10% of new COVID infections in the United States.
A month ago, these subvariants barely registered. The CDC only started tracking them about a week ago.
Experts said that they urge people to wear good-quality masks while at indoor public spaces.
“I’m encouraging people to continue masking indoors,” Dr. Purvi Parikh, an infectious disease expert at NYU Langone Health, said. “There could be concern of another surge and possibly impacting hospitalization.”
“If you’re in crowded indoor spaces right now, the smart move really is to wear a high-quality mask,” Stephanie Silvera, an epidemiologist, said. “We’re already seeing cases rise in Europe and we tend to follow Europe by two to three, sometimes four weeks.”
Although highly infectious, BQ.1 and BQ.1.1 are from the BA.5 lineage, against which the new bivalent boosters were designed to protect.
However, health authorities are concerned that some treatments do not work against the new subvariants. Dr. Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute for Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said these variants appear to resist existing monoclonal antibody drugs.
“The monoclonal antibody treatments that have been used are now being rendered fairly useless and several of them have had to be taken out of rotation for treatment and that’s going to leave those high-risk people at even greater risk for severe COVID,” said Silvera.
“As the colder weather starts to set in and people start staying more indoors, maybe holiday parties, those kind of things, less people using masks and social distancing, we do expect an uptick in Covid cases,” said Dr. Nicolas Hernandez, a family doctor on Long Island with Northwell Glen Cove Hospital.
And, as we have heard many times, COVID will continue to mutate.