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Belize braces for onslaught of Omicron BA.5 subvariant of COVID-19

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Posted: Wednesday, July 13, 2022. 2:12 pm CST.

By Aaron Humes: The nimble SARS-nCov-2 virus is not done with the world or Belize, as according to the Ministry of Health it is on the hunt for cases of the new subvariants BA.4 and BA.5.

Of 40 recent samples that were genomically sequenced, the Ministry announced yesterday that one showed the BA.5 sub-variant as opposed to the others which were of the BA.2 sub-variant, both branches of the Omicron variant of the virus which causes COVID-19. A second report is due in the next week to further determine the spread of the new sub-variant.

Research has shown that this sub-variant is more transmissible than its parent variant as well as previous variants, but the symptoms do not appear to be as severe.

According to Dr. Melissa Diaz-Musa, Director of Public Health and Wellness, Belize’s current “wave” of COVID will flatten out slightly but not go significantly down if in fact BA.5 has or will become the dominant sub-variant of the virus here as it is in the United States and elsewhere: “It seems now that although we have been seeing in the last two weeks a slight reduction in the daily cases and in the 14-day rolling average we see a reduction as well, it is not extremely significant; and with the BA.5 here now, we feel that more than likely we will continue with an increase in cases at this time.”

The BA.4 and BA.5 sub-variants are grouped together because they share similar mutations. Dr. Diaz-Musa stated that the new sub-variants are better able to evade antibodies created naturally, but not entirely. She maintains that “vaccines still remain very effective; vaccines still help. They are safe to use; they help us to prevent the severity of disease, they help to prevent hospitalizations and deaths once you get infected,” in addition to the body’s own defenses.

But vaccinations do not prevent you from getting the virus once, or even twice. Compared to the original virus, the incubation period has lessened, said Dr. Diaz-Musa, from 14 days of the date of exposure to just three to five to show symptoms or other signs of sickness, though it still depends on the personal circumstance.

The current presentation involves body aches, cough, high fever, and pneumonia in some cases and a variety of personal presentations occur.

Persons are encouraged to get tested as soon as possible and practice isolation, handwashing and mask-wearing in indoor and crowded areas, particularly those with air-conditioning or non-natural ventilation.

 

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