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According to One Epidemiologist, the Winter Holidays Will Be a “Very Active Covid Season”

The COVID-19 omicron strain has two novel subvariants that are spreading across the country. Epidemiologists predict that the holiday season will see a rise in cases of these subvariants.

Which Subvariants Are There?

The omicron variation has been altered to produce the subvariants BQ.1 and BQ.1.1. In the middle of October, they were initially uploaded to the variation dashboard of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The subvariants, according to the CDC, are offspring of the BA.5 variant, which has been prevalent in the US for a while. In the final week of September, BQ.1 and BQ.1.1 accounted for around 2% of all sequenced COVID-19 cases in the United States.

The Society for Healthcare Epidemiology of America’s spokesperson is the epidemiologist Dr. Scott Stienecker. It has been gaining momentum across the nation and now makes up 35% of all sequenced isolates, according to Stienecker.

Why Are These Strains A Cause For Concern?

BQ.1 and BQ.1.1 are resistant to monoclonal antibodies and the initial vaccination schedules. Those who have already contracted diseases or received vaccines only have a 20–35% protective effect. The current bivalent boosters, however, provide up to a 94 percent protective effect, according to Stienecker.

People can have those bivalent boosters at least two months after finishing their initial or booster vaccine. People 5 and older can have Pfizer’s bivalent booster dosage, while those 6 and older can get Moderna.

Do These New Strains Represent An Improvement Over The Original Omicron Variant?

The good news is that these variants don’t seem to produce more serious illness than the earlier, more contagious omicron strains, according to Stienecker. He advised Indiana residents to get treatment for any underlying medical concerns as soon as possible. Paxlovid is one possible example of this; it is an antiviral drug that can be used within five days of the onset of symptoms to avert hospitalization or even death.

According to Stienecker, “our anticipation is that we’ll still be able to cure patients, as long as we can catch them early.” According to Stienecker, the issue for many people is that “it’s usually a week to two weeks down the road” before they realize “they’re in trouble.”

The other worrying feature of these new strains, according to him, is protracted COVID, or symptoms that persist for days, weeks, or even months after the initial infection, which is brought on by an immunological reaction.

But he added that those with low or even moderate disease might actually have a better prognosis for long-term COVID than those with severe disease. Before the winter, an epidemiologist advises Indiana residents to have bivalent vaccinations.

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When Is The Peak Anticipated For These Variants?

Based on how these variants have behaved in other nations, Stienecker stated that he anticipates the holiday season to turn into a “very active COVID season.” “I believe that there will be a high chance of COVID transmission at large holiday gatherings, which might ruin everyone’s holiday. Therefore, I advise against doing that,” he stated.

Stienecker underlined that regular hand washing and masks are important ways to stop the spread of germs. Like the rest of the country, Indiana is experiencing an early flu season and widespread RSV outbreak. These precautions will aid in halting the spread of those respiratory illnesses, coupled with receiving a flu shot. He also advised Indiana residents to have their bivalent booster as soon as possible.

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