Covid-19: should we fear the ninth wave carried by the new BQ.1.1 variant? -Coronavirus

“We are in the ascending phase and at the start of a ninth wave”, assures Mahmoud Zureik, professor of public health at the University of Versailles Saint-Quentin-en-Yvelines, based on indicators from Public Health France. Nearly 50,000 cases of covid-19 were confirmed on Wednesday, up 41% over a week. Hospitalizations and critical care admissions have increased by 7 and 16% over the past seven days. The trend therefore seems clear even if “it remains difficult to analyze the situation with precision due to the strikes of biological laboratories, the interference of public holidays and also the share of self-tests that are not traceable”, continues the scientist, also director of EPI-PHARE, public structure of expertise in epidemiology.

The impact of the BQ.1.1 subvariant

Among the reasons for this epidemic resurgence, less favorable weather: the cold and the rain invite more people to stay indoors where the virus is transmitted more easily. The end of school holidays could also play a role as well as “the lack of prevention against transmission”, such as wearing a mask, according to Mahmoud Zureik.

But the ideal culprit of this new wave is a new sub-variant of Omicron, BQ.1.1, a descendant of BA.5, itself the origin of the two previous covid waves. “BQ.1.1 must be the majority now, it would be responsible for 60 to 80% of contamination in the country”, notes Olivier Schwartz, head of the virus and immunity unit at the Institut Pasteur. Its advantage? “It carries a few additional mutations that make it even more resistant to antibodies,” explains the virologist.

Is it intrinsically more severe? “There is, to date, no indication that BQ.1 or BQ.1.1 is associated with a clinical presentation or a different severity from the other Omicron sublines”, replied Public Health France, in its latest analysis. of risks published on November 16.

“The hospital is going to be under a lot of pressure”

At the hospital, we remain vigilant, without being alarmed for the moment. “In Rennes, the level of hospitalization continues to drop. But we are still out of step with the circulation of the virus in the population. The impact in the hospital can be seen one to two weeks later, by the time the patient’s condition worsens”, recalls Pierre Tattevin, head of the infectiology department at the CHU, who wants to be reassuring: “The translation of a wave of covid in the hospital is much less clear than one or two years ago: the vast majority of patients do not need to be hospitalized”, specifies the Breton doctor, also vice-president of the Society of Infectious Pathology in French (Spilf).

Problem, this ninth wave of covid-19 has the particularity of being accompanied by other epidemics such as that of the flu. Mahmoud Zureik thus believes that “the hospital will undergo very significant tension in the days and weeks to come”.

How high will the covid wave be there? “The question that arises is that of the immune status of the population: to what degree do vaccination and previous infections still protect? We see that the vaccine booster rates are low and this can have an impact on hospitalizations, ”fears the epidemiologist. In response, he recommends accelerating the recall campaign and strengthening prevention measures “by reducing the transmission of the virus by wearing a mask in closed places and public transport and by improving ventilation, useful for all infectious respiratory diseases”.

letelegramme Fr Trans

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