COVID variants BQ.1, BQ 1.1 make up 16.6% of U.S. cases – CDC

Oct 21 (Reuters) – The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) on Friday estimated that BQ.1 and closely related BQ.1.1 make up for 16.6% of the total circulating coronavirus variants in the United States, nearly doubling from last week.

The variants have spread quickly in the country in the last few weeks, particularly in New York.

The CDC said on Friday that BQ.1 last week was estimated to make up 5.8% of circulating variants, while BQ.1.1 had made up 3.6% of all variants.

The two variants are descendants of Omicron’s BA.5 subvariant, which is the dominant form of COVID-19 in the country. The U.S. regulators have recently authorized vaccine boosters that target it.

Weekly cases in the United States have been falling recently, while hospitalizations are rising this week but are down compared to previous weeks.

New variants are monitored closely by regulators and vaccine manufacturers in case they start to evade protection offered by current shots.

The World Health Organization this week said BQ.1.1 is circulating in at least 29 countries. Another variant, XBB, is spreading in at least 26 countries and was shown to evade some protection offered by antibodies in one study, the WHO said.

“The more this virus circulates, the more opportunities it has to change,” the global agency’s technical lead on COVID Maria Van Kerkhove told reporters.

“We don’t see a change in severity, but it’s very early and we have very limited data to actually assess this,” she said.

The BA.5 variant is estimated to made up 62.2% of cases for the week of Oct 22, down from 70.2% in the week of Oct 15.

Reporting by Manas Mishra and Khushi Mandowara in Bengaluru; Editing by Nancy Lapid, Arun Koyyur and Shinjini Ganguli

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

Source: Reuters