First local case of BQ.1 Covid variant found in foreign man from China

published :
19 Oct 2022 at 18:19

Medical Sciences Department director-general Supakit Sirilak speaks about Omicron’s highly transmissible and immune-evasive descendants at a meeting on Monday. (Photo: Medical Sciences Department)

The first case of domestic infection with the highly-transmissible, immunity-evasive BQ.1 Omicron variant of Covid-19 is a 40-year-old foreign man who arrived from China, according to the Medical Sciences Department chief.

It was unclear whether the patient was a Chinese national, how long he had been in Thailand, and how it was determined the virus had been transmitted domestically.

The patient sought treatment at a private hospital in Bangkok in late August with no symptoms and has already recovered, Medical Sciences Department director-general Supakit Sirilak said on Wednesday. 

Following procedure, the hospital sent samples from the patient to the department’s lab for testing, which then forwarded in September the analysis to the Global Initiative on Sharing Avian Influenza Data (Gisaid), an international genomic database, said Dr Supakit.

At the time, the analysis indicated the patient might have been infected with the Omicron sub-variant, BE.1.1, a descendent of BA. sub-variant.  

In the wake of global data-gathering, however, Gisaid on Tuesday determined the samples matched with BQ.1, Dr Supakit said

Also on Tuesday, the Centre for Medical Genomics at Ramathibodi Hospital announced the first case of Omicron’s highly transmissible and immune-evasive descendant BQ.1 to be detected in Thailand, citing information from Gisaid.

The centre posted on Facebook that the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) had issued an alert for the outbreak of BQ.1 and BQ.1.1, two descendants of Omicron’s BA.5 sub-variant.

Dr Supakit said BQ.1 was among the Omicron sub-variants that the World Health Organisation is monitoring.

At this point,the BF.7, BN.1, BQ.1 and XBB sub-lineages of the Omicron variant have all been detected in Thailand, while the BQ.1.1 Omicron sub-variant has yet to be found, the department chief said, urging continued vigilance. 

Wearing of face masks, hand-washing and vaccination may help prevent the spread of the outbreak, he said, unlike in other countries where people had stopped wearing face masks, he said.

There was no evidence the severity of the Omicron sub-variants found in Thailand, was increasing, Dr Supakit said, and no fatalities from the new strains had been reported.

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