BQ.1 & BQ1.1 Variant Update: Here's what you need to know about the latest ‘triple-demic’ threat
If you’ve kept an eye on the news headlines this past couple of weeks, you’ll be well aware of the latest Omicron subvariants, known as BQ.1 and BQ1.1, currently circulating in the U.S. While BA.5 is still the dominant variant in the country, being the cause for 62% of cases, BQ.1 and BQ1.1 currently account for 17% of COVID cases in the U.S.
“It's really too early to tell right now exactly how infectious these new variants are but we are seeing them spread pretty quickly. And cases attributed to the new variants have nearly doubled in just the last week. If we look at Europe, which we know always tends to be a little ahead of us with surges and a good indicator of where we're headed, they expect those two new subvariants to become the dominant variants there in about a month,” states American Medical Association Vice President of Science, Medicine and Public Health Andrea Garcia, JD, MPH.
As we head toward the winter, two more elements are joining hands with the COVID pandemic to create a so-called triple-demic.
According to one of the CDC’s first FluViews this year, they're reporting the highest levels of flu right now. This early increase in seasonal flu activity, especially in the Southeast and the South Central areas, means that flu cases are higher than usual for this time of year.
The third element of the triple-demic is Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV) infections which are currently placing a heavy strain on pediatric hospitals in some states.
“And for most children, RSV looks like a common cold. But for others, especially if we talk about infants under six months or children with lung disease or weakened immune systems, those symptoms can be more severe and can require hospitalization. RSV can lead to bronchiolitis or pneumonia and, as a result, can be a danger to those adults 65 and older,” explains Garcia.
Garcia also adds that: “RSV isn't a reportable condition in most states. But if we look at CDC data, RSV is around 58 000 annual hospitalizations, 100 to 300 deaths in young children under five and about 14 000 deaths among adults 65 and older. And, of course, we saw those patterns of RSV and other common respiratory viruses really interrupted due to the measures we've been taking to prevent COVID since early 2020. But clearly, these viruses are back this year.”
It goes without saying that getting your COVID booster and flu shot is the best thing you can do right now. We also recommend stocking up on face masks to ensure you and your family are protected. It’s often difficult to find kids' face masks that fit properly, so if you’ve been having trouble with that you’ll find what you are looking for in these categories: kids aged 3-5, kids aged 6-8 and kids aged 9 - 13.