The outbreak of a new variant of the coronavirus, known as BF.7, has caused concern among public health officials and the general public. Let’s discuss about Omicron Subvariant BF.7 (new omicron variant).
What is Omicron Sub-Variant BF.7 ?
The BF.7 is a sub-lineage of the Omicron variant BA.5. According to PTI, it is a highly transmissible variant with a shorter incubation period. It also has a higher capacity to cause reinfection and can even infect vaccinated individuals as well.
BF7, which was first identified in China, has shown to be highly transmissible and has led to a significant increase in cases and hospitalisations in the affected areas of China and nearby regions like Hong Kong and Taiwan. This outbreak comes at a time, when China is starting to relax its policies on lockdowns. As a countermeasure now, the Chinese government has accelerated its vaccination drive mainly among the older population.
Other governments have restricted travel to and from China. And there is mandatory quarantine for people returning from the affected areas.
According to a study published in the journal ‘Cell Host and Microbe,’ the BF.7variant has 4.4-fold higher neutralisation resistance than the original Wuhan virus. This means the antibodies from the vaccination are not effective enough against the virus.
How did Omicron Subvariant BF.7 Originate?
“A new and highly transmissible BF.7 strain of the Omicron variant has been found to be behind a wider surge of COVID infections in China,” said the Indian Ministry of Health on Wednesday.
Though the virus is primarily driving the surge in China, it has been found in the United States, Denmark, Germany, France, and India.
Chinese experts have said that it is much more transmissible than earlier coronavirus strains.
China’s Covid-19 surge is being driven by the Omicron Subvariant BF.7. The surge follows the relaxation of China’s ‘Zero Covid’ policy after a wave of intense nationwide protests. Projections show that China’s Covid-19 situation is expected to get worse through the winters.
Initially Omicron had two sub-variants BA.1 and BA.2. The second variant BA.2 has evolved and differentiated into other forms, which are – BA.4, BA.5, and BA.2.75. And the BF.7 which is a progression of BA.4/5.
As per the World Health Organization bulletin on the global COVID -19 situation issued on December 14, it has only mentioned five “relevant” sub-variants but does not mention BF.7, hence nothing about its evading neutralisation capacity. The Omicron Subvariant BF.7 has remained stable almost elsewhere it evolved, except in China. A specific mutation called ‘R346T’ is believed to be the parent of BF.7.
What is the Situation in India?
Four cases of the Omicron Subvariant BF.7 have been reported in India, till now.
Additional Chief Secretary of Health, Manoj Agarwal told news agency ANI that the central government briefed all states to ensure proper screening of international passengers, as well as genome sequencing.
Effects Of BF.7 On India
Currently, India is in a much better and safer position. Natural infection among over 90% of the Indian population and excellent vaccination drive, to the extent that 75% of the population has received two doses and 25% the third or precautionary dose, making us the nation with the highest percentage of hybrid immunity.
Symptoms of Omicron BF.7 variant
The new variant presents symptoms similar to upper respiratory infection including fever, sore throat, runny nose and cough. Some patients may also experience stomach-related issues including diarrhoea and vomiting. If someone is experiencing such symptoms, experts advise getting tested immediately. This variant may not lead to any severe complications but can spread faster. Therefore, early detection and isolation are extremely crucial.
Cases in India
Somewhere around 150 new cases have been reported in India, out of which about 4 of them are thought to be the new variant of the coronavirus. BF.7 is considered a triple threat as it is highly transmissible, can reinfect people easily, and can also infect those vaccinated.
- Try to stay at home more often. Avoid crowded places, as it can be easy to get in contact with the infection.
- If going outside, make sure that you wear a mask which covers your mouth, nose and chin. Also, carry a hand sanitizer which has an alcoholic base.
- Maintain the rules of social distancing. Maintain a distance of 1 metre from others.
- Cleaning and disinfecting the commonly used surfaces such as mobile phones, tables, door handles and faucets.
In India only about 28% of the adult population have had three doses of the vaccine. The government’s main focus is to encourage three doses of the vaccine.
As per many experts, the precautionary third dose will help in fighting the new variant and will decrease hospitalisation and serious illness.