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No symptoms but positive for BA.4

Another Omicron subvariant detected in Pinoy from Middle East

/ 05:46 AM May 22, 2022
Illustration shows test tube labelled "COVID-19 Omicron variant test positive. STORY: Another Omicron subvariant detected in Pinoy from Middle East

REUTERS/Dado Ruvic/Illustration/File Photo

MANILA, Philippines — A new COVID-19 subvariant has entered the Philippines after a Filipino male who returned to the country from the Middle East early this month was found to have BA.4, another Omicron sublineage capable of a faster transmission than previous lines of the virus, the Department of Health (DOH) disclosed on Saturday.

The DOH said the Filipino, who was asymptomatic, arrived on May 4. He tested positive for the Omicron sublineage four days later, making him the country’s first BA.4 case, the DOH said in a statement.

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A week earlier, the health department confirmed the detection of Omicron subvariant BA.2.12.1.

Faster transmission

The DOH did not say whether the man was quarantined at home or in a government facility. It said that it was working with the concerned local governments to “rapidly implement detection and isolation activities.”

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“Further information about the first BA.4 case the DOH detected is being verified by the concerned Regional Epidemiology and Surveillance Unit. The immediate priority is to ensure the case has been cared for and his close contacts quarantined to interrupt transmission,” the DOH added.BA.4 is among the emerging Omicron subvariants being monitored by local health authorities.

“BA.4’s faster transmission is likely because of its ability to evade immune protection induced by prior infection and vaccination, particularly if this has waned over time,” the DOH said.

On May 12, the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) elevated the designation of BA.4 to a “variant of concern.” But the World Health Organization classifies it as a “variant of concern-lineages under monitoring” along with BA.5, both of which are dubbed “sister lineage” of BA.1 and BA.2.

‘Stealth’ subvariant

The Omicron BA.1 and BA.2, the latter dubbed the “stealth” subvariant, have been detected in the country. The combination of the two sublineages called “XE,” however, has not yet been detected in the country.

“While the ECDC has not observed any change in severity for BA.4 compared to other Omicron subvariants, we must be careful because faster transmission will lead to a spike in cases that could overwhelm our hospitals and clinics,” the DOH pointed out.

Carlito Galvez Jr., head of the National Task Force Against COVID-19, last month identified Omicron BA.2.12, BA.4 and BA.5 as three emerging COVID-19 subvariants that were “very likely to hit” the Philippines after these caused spikes in infections in South Africa, United States, and Europe.

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TAGS: COVID-19 Omicron variant, Department of Health, OFWs with COVID-19
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