As Canadians are urged to get their COVID-19 and flu shots, many are wondering when the pandemic will end.
As colder weather sets in, COVID-19 cases are surging in hospitals across the country. However, as COVID-19 continues to smash, a new variant is looming on the horizon that deserves recognition: the BQ.1.1 variant.
A detailed overview of the COVID-19 BQ.1.1 variant
Different variants of COVID-19 have reigned supreme at various times during the pandemic. In early to mid-summer, the contagious BA.5 COVID-19 subvariant swept through Canada and other parts of the world. Now, just months after BA.5’s demise, epidemiologists in the UK are warning of the BQ1.1 subvariant as the next version to watch.
How is BQ.1.1 different from previous variants?
In the United States, BQ.1.1 infections are doubling every week. So far, this spread rate is twice the speed of the other major subvariants. For example, the new BQ.1.1 spreads twice as fast as BA.2.75.2.
BQ.1.1 is a sub-variant of the Omicron BA.5 variant. The recently updated booster shots should help protect against the subvariant.
BQ.1.1 is very contagious
Some variants of COVID-19 are more contagious than others. Currently, the most contagious COVID-19 variant is the strain named BA.5.
BQ.1.1 is spreading across North America along with other contagious Omicron variants. Currently, the BQ.1.1 and BQ.1 subvariants are responsible for more than 11% of new infections in the United States, while BA5 comprises 70%.
BQ.1.1 is resistant to certain antibody therapies
While the contagion levels of the new subvariants raise concerns, an even more worrying aspect is the resistance of BQ.1.1 to our natural antibodies and certain antibody therapies. Experts noted earlier in the year that some BA.5 subvariants could evade antibodies people have accumulated through previous infections and vaccinations.
Reports show that BQ.1.1 may be the first subvariant to completely resist antibody therapies, such as Evusheld and Bebtelovimab.
How effective is our vaccine with BQ.1.1?
Vaccine efficacy refers to the effectiveness of vaccines in protecting the vaccinated population. It is still too early to definitively confirm the efficacy of the vaccine against BQ.1.1. However, it is gaining a reputation as one of the most immune-evasive COVID-19 variants to emerge.
Without enough antibodies and vaccine solutions, the fight against the ever-changing subvariants of COVID-19 would become grim. Fortunately, the new “bivalent” messenger RNA boosters are still proving effective against the virus.
What are the symptoms of BQ.1.1?
Currently, the symptoms to look out for are the same symptoms related to other Omicron-related subvariants. Omicron subvariants may have a shorter incubation time and faster onset of symptoms than other COVID-19 variants. The worst symptom is having a burning throat.
The most common symptoms associated with BQ.1.1 and other Omicron subvariants include:
What to do if you get BQ.1.1
If you think you have contracted the new BQ1.1 subvariant or any other variety of COVID-19, take a rapid test and self-isolate for five days. As we head into the colder months, seasonal allergies, the flu and colds will also become more common. Many of them share symptoms with the BQ.1.1 subvariant, and keeping a COVID-19 home test kit handy can help you differentiate COVID-19 from other seasonal illnesses.
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