PH reports first XBB 1.5 subvariant case
THE Department of Health (DoH) has reported the first case of the highly infectious Omicron XBB 1.5 subvariant in the country in its latest sequencing report.
XBB 1.5, an offshoot of the XBB subvariant, was declared by the European Center for Disease Prevention and Control as a “variant of interest” because of its increasing global prevalence and enhanced immune-evasion properties.
The variant has been detected in 59 countries and has accounted for 66.4 percent of all Covid-19 cases in the United States from January 29 to February 4, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
However, the World Health Organization said that while there is evidence of increased transmission and immune escape, it does not suggest any difference in disease severity or clinical manifestation than the original Omicron subvariant.
The lone XBB 1.5 case was part of 196 newly detected XBB cases sequenced by the Research Institute for Tropical Medicine and the University of the Philippines-Philippine Genome Center.
Other variants that were discovered from 1,078 samples that were sequenced from January 30 to February 3 were 454 cases of BA.2.3.20, 79 cases of XBC, 28 of BA.5 subvariant including six classified as BQ.1, seven cases of BA.2.75, and 160 with other Omicron sublineages.
Meanwhile, as Covid-19 cases continue to decrease, Health Officer in Charge Maria Rosario Vergeire warned that it should not be compared with influenza, as the two diseases have different characteristics.
This comes after OCTA Research senior fellow Dr. Guido David said in an interview that the number of Covid-19 cases can now be compared with the number of influenza cases in the country.
Covid-19 cases fell to as low as 36 cases nationwide last February 5, the lowest in over three years.
“While there are similarities between the flu and Covid-19 due to it having flu-like symptoms, the incidence of Covid-19 remained higher than the flu,” Vergeire said during a briefing in Marikina City on Tuesday.
Since January, only 45 influenza cases have been reported across the country, while Covid-19 continues to average 145 cases per day in the past week.
Vergeire stressed that, unlike the flu, Covid-19 can lead to severe and critical disease in highly susceptible persons, such as elderly individuals and persons with comorbidities.
“We know that if Covid-19 infects the vulnerable sector like the elderly and those with comorbidities, it can cause severe and critical infection and can lead to deaths,” Vergeire said.
She urged the public to continue to remain vigilant.