Michael Hunter, MD on Medika Life

BQ.1 — The New COVID-19 Variant Doctors Want You to Know About

HAVE YOU HEARD ABOUT THE COVID-19 VARIANT BQ.1? This new virus on the block (or one of its variants) now comprises more than one in 10 cases of COVID-19 in the United States. That’s the number, according to the US Centers for Disease Control (CDC). BQ.1 and BQ.1.1 account for nearly 20 percent of infections in the New York and New Jersey regions of the United States.

In contrast, the BQ.1 variant represented less than one percent of cases. To identify and track SARS-CoV-2 variants, the CDC uses genomic surveillance. This process includes the collection of SARS-CoV-2 specimens for sequencing and SARS-CoV-2 sequences generated by commercial or academic laboratories contracted by the CDC and state or local public health laboratories.

In an interview with CBS News, Dr. Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and also the chief medical adviser to President Joe Biden, observes this:

“When you get variants like [BQ.1], you look at what their rate of increase is as a relative proportion of the variants, and this has a pretty troublesome doubling time.”

Photo by Hakan Nural on Unsplash

COVID-19 BQ.1 implications

You are probably aware of the Omicron subvariant called BA.5, the most common infection type. Nearly seven in 10 infections are secondary to BA.5. Viruses mutate, so I am not surprised that we have BQ.1 and other variants emerging.

Dr. Peter Hotez of Baylor College of Medicine Houston (USA) called BQ.1.1 on Twitter the “most likely candidate” to drive a new COVID-19 wave if that were to happen in the coming months.

Will the current treatments, including monoclonal antibodies, hold up with the new BQ.1 variant? Noting this concern, I want to share the good news:

Because the new variant is a descendant of Omicron, my upcoming booster shot may be my best first line of protection against this rising threat. I look forward to seeing if the booster works well to prevent serious illness. I don’t have high hopes that it will slow transmission much, though.

Thank you for joining me in this brief look at COVID-19 BQ.1. Stay safe.

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Michael Hunter, MD
I received an undergraduate degree from Harvard, a medical degree from Yale, and trained in radiation oncology at the University of Pennsylvania. I practice radiation oncology in the Seattle area.

Michael Hunter, MD

I received an undergraduate degree from Harvard, a medical degree from Yale, and trained in radiation oncology at the University of Pennsylvania. I practice radiation oncology in the Seattle area.

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