Coronavirus variant: “The transmissibility of the BF.7 Omicron variant is high; 18 people can be infected”

As COVID sweeps through China, India is stepping up its COVID policies, despite no significant or concerning rise in cases. The new BF.7 variant of Omicron, which is driving the COVID wave in China, has officially arrived in India with no less than 4 confirmed cases found in international travellers. This variant has spread to China, Japan, Korea, the United States and other countries. We spoke to Dr Pavithra Venkatagopalan, coronavirologist and COVID awareness specialist about the new variant. She shares, “One interesting thing that we need to find out is where this variant originated or started. It could have already circulated in India, we don’t know. In July itself we found a few cases in India but we don’t know where it started. We get data from small hospitals in China, but we don’t know what is happening in big cities and big hospitals.
The panic that is created can have both right and wrong answers. The good that can come from this is that people will take masking seriously to prevent infections.

The difference between two years ago and now is that we are all massively vaccinated. So that plays an important role in the level of protection we have. Vaccines deployed in India have been shown to be safe, protective and effective. This will play an important role in the severity of infection in any wave.
The booster dose campaigns didn’t gather as much heat as the early prime campaigns we had. But most people have been boosted once. The booster shot prepares your body to remember how to initiate an immune response in the event of an attack. We know that the immune response definitely lasts 9 months and up to a year it stays in the memory.

Isolation, masking and distancing are important techniques to prevent infections from spreading.

We have no clinically significant data in India regarding the severity of this virus. But we know that the The RO (reproduction factor) of this variant is 1:18, which means that 1 can infect up to 18 people. In a small gathering of 15 people, one infected person can infect everyone. The more we allow this virus to replicate, the more people it will infect and the more likely it will mutate.

The need for personal responsibility

Given how viral this new variant is, it’s important that people stay home and mask up until symptoms subside.

“The only thing we can hope for is personal responsibility. People should refuse to go out if they have a cold, instead of taking a pill and going out to work or meeting people.

The response to this new sub-variant of Omicron will depend on one’s own immune response. It’s a subvariant of Omicron so it should be an upper respiratory infection but as the viral load is high you can never tell it can turn into a lower respiratory tract infection,” she adds.

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