HomeWorldNew COVID variant BQ.1 now makes up 1 in 10 cases nationwide,...

New COVID variant BQ.1 now makes up 1 in 10 cases nationwide, CDC estimates

In just over a month since a new COVID variant known as BQ.1 was first mentioned, that strain and a descendant called BQ.1.1 have already grown to more than 10% of new infections nationwide, according to updated estimates published Friday by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“When you get variants like that, you look at their rate of increase as a relative proportion of the variants, and this has a pretty tricky doubling time,” said Dr. Anthony Fauci, the president’s chief medical adviser, in an interview with CBS News.

It comes as federal health authorities brace for a widely expected resurgence of COVID-19 this fall and winter. BQ.1 variants have already outperformed many rival strains in European countries from England until Germanywho have already seen renewed waves to start.

The CDC had previously bundled BQ.1 and BQ.1.1 with their shared parent BA.5 in the office weekly “Nowcast” estimates. BQ.1 was first mentioned by scientists in early Septemberbased on sequences spotted in the US and several other countries.

BQ.1 and BQ.1.1 each currently make up an estimated 5.7% of infections nationwide, the agency said. The rest of BA.5, which had dominated a wave of cases over the summer, has shrunk to 67.9% of circulating variants.

“While BQ.1 and BQ.1.1 represent a small but fast-growing subset of the Omicron variant, BA.5 remains the dominant lineage in the United States,” CDC spokesman Kristen Nordlund said in a statement.

BQ.1 and BQ.1.1 also seem on track to overtake the only other species that still outperform them: BA.4.6which currently accounts for 12.2% of infections.

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Nordlund said the agency had not listed BQ.1 and BQ.1.1 separately in the agency’s previous weekly variant reports, because they “circulated at less than 1% in the empirical data.”

Of all regions, the New York and New Jersey region has the highest share of BQ.1 and BQ.1.1 infections. About 20% of the infections are already from BQ.1 or BQ.1.1, the CDC estimates.

The news about the growth of the new variants comes as COVID-19 statistics are still largely improving nationwide.

Only about 1% of Americans live in counties that see “high” COVID-19 Community Levels, where the CDC is pushing for indoor masking and other steps to contain the virus. Less than half of counties see community transmission as bad enough to require universal masking in hospitals and nursing homes, among others. recent federal guidelines.

But data from Health and Human Services Region 2, which spans New York and New Jersey, has also tracked a recent surge in COVID-19 hospital admissions and nursing home infections.

“As much as you want to feel good about fewer cases and fewer hospitalizations, we don’t want to declare victory too early. And that’s why we need to keep an eye on these emerging variants.” said Fauci.

Concerns About Immunity And Monoclonal Antibodies

Fauci also reiterated his concern that the mutations of the variant to avoid drugs such as Evusheld, an important antibody drug used to protect immunocompromised Americans from the virus.

“That’s why people are concerned about BQ.1.1, for the dual reason of its doubling time and the fact that it seems to evade important monoclonal antibodies,” Fauci said.

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dr.  Anthony Faucic
dr. Anthony S. Fauci

Tom Williams/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images


A spokesperson for AstraZeneca said they currently have no data on how BQ.1 affects the drug.

The FDA warned doctors earlier this month of data suggesting that other variants now emerging across the country could pose a threat to high-risk patients who had relied on Evusheld’s protection.

BQ.1 is one of the most diverse “soup” of new strains that scientists have tracked about concerns that their mutations on specific positions on the spike protein of the virus, a golf.

Experts have quoted the “significant number of unique mutations” in variants such as BQ.1 by speculating that it could evade the immunity people have against previous infections or vaccinations.

However, little is known about what impact? these mutations could affect the severity of the disease, which would require further research in animals and humans.

Fauci said he expected the… updated COVID boosters from Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna, which were recently expanded to children from 5 yearswould be able to curb a potential rise fueled by BQ.1.

“The bad news is there’s a new variant emerging that has qualities or characteristics that could evade some of the interventions we have. But the somewhat encouraging news is that it’s a BA.5 subline, so there will be almost certainly be a crotch guard that you can reinforce,” he said.

More than 14.7 million Americans have received an updated COVID booster so far, which includes a component targeting the parent BA.5 of the BQ.1.

That equates to about 7% of the 209 million who were initially eligible for the admissions when they were first given the green light last month.

However, after accelerating in the wake of the booster’s initial rollout, numbers published at the end of thursday by the CDC show that the daily rate of new COVID shots is now slowing.

The shortage between the pace of updated boosters and the typical intake of the annual flu vaccine by this time of year has also increased.

“That’s the thing that’s so frustrating to me and to my colleagues involved in this is that we have the ability to reduce this. And the uptake of the new bivalent vaccine isn’t nearly as high as we’d like,” Fauci added.

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