'Pretty troublesome' highly contagious subvariants could drive this winter’s 'COVID wave': report

'Pretty troublesome' highly contagious subvariants could drive this winter’s 'COVID wave': report
Image via the United States Department of Defense.

When Dr. Anthony Fauci appeared on the BBC’s “HARDtalk” in mid-October, host Stephen Sackur grilled him about the state of the COVID-19 pandemic in the United States and President Joe Biden’s statement, during a September appearance on CBS News’ “60 Minutes,” that “the pandemic is over.” Sackur strongly disagreed with Biden’s statement; Fauci, in response, defended Biden by saying that the U.S. president has been quite aggressive in confronting the pandemic, which isn’t as deadly as it was in 2020. Fauci diplomatically acknowledged, however, that Biden’s rhetoric during the “60 Minutes” interview could have been better.

Fauci also pointed out that COVID-19 and its Omicron subvariants continue to be highly contagious. Two of the Omicron subvariants that Fauci is worried about are BQ.1 and BQ.1.1, both of which are among the subvariants that journalist Erin Doherty examines in an article published by Axios on October 18.

According to Doherty, the Omicron subvariants that have been emerging — from BQ.1 and BQ.1.1 to BA.4.6 and BF.7 — could drive a new wave of COVID-19 infections this winter.

READ MORE: Joe Biden is 'a real president who takes COVID-19 seriously': Lincoln Project

“Multiple versions of the Omicron variant are emerging around the world, raising concerns that a potential next COVID-19 wave could be driven by a host of viruses, rather than just one single one,” Doherty reports. “The big picture: Experts are monitoring BQ.1 and BQ.1.1, which is about 11 percent of the viruses sampled in the U.S., per data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. BA.4.6 and BF.7 are also gaining traction in the U.S., accounting for about 12.2 percent and 5.3 percent of sampled viruses respectively, per the data.”

Doherty adds, “XBB, another mutated version of Omicron, may be best suited to evade immunity, including a breakthrough BA.5 infection, the Washington Post reports.”

Tom Peacock, a virologist at Imperial College London, told the Post, “These lineages are going to have a greater ability to reinfect people than what is currently circulating.… which is very likely to drive or contribute to infection waves over the winter.”

Fauci described BQ.1 and BQ.1.1 as “pretty troublesome” during a mid-October interview with CBS News.

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The expert immunologist noted, “The bad news is that there's a new variant that's emerging, and 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 sub-lineage, so there are almost certainly going to be some cross-protection that you can boost up.”

COVID-19 first emerged in Wuhan, China in late 2019. Since then, it has, according to Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, Maryland, killed more than 6.5 million people worldwide — including more than 1 million in the United States. In October 2022, COVID-19 continues to be highly contagious, although many of today’s infectious are less severe than the pre-vaccine infections of 2020. Biden and Fauci have both infected with COVID-19 despite being fully vaccinated but said they experienced only mild symptoms.

READ MORE: A 'highly contagious' COVID subvariant has scientists worried about the 'next wave of infections': report

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