BF.7 Omicron Variant: The Latest Details About the ‘Covid-19’ Virus Outbreak in China

China is experiencing an increase in COVID cases, which has left offices and public areas deserted and hospitals once again overrun with patients. Several news sources indicate that the omicron subvariant BF.7 is responsible for the COVID outbreak in Beijing.

About BF.7 Subvariant

Reportedly, China has recently struggled to contain a sudden increase in COVID-related deaths following a sudden shift from its Zero COVID policy earlier this month, which imposed strict lockdowns and mass testing in response to widespread citizen protests.

Since it first appeared in late 2021, the COVID subvariant Omicron has quickly changed into several other subvariants. One subvariant, BF.7, which has recently been found to be the main variant spreading in Beijing, is to blame for the rise in COVID infections across China.

The Omicron variant BA.5 has a sub-lineage known as BF.7, abbreviated as BA.5.2.1.7.

According to reports from China about the Omicron subvariants, BF.7 has the most robust capacity for infection. It spreads more quickly than other variants, has a shorter incubation period, and has a more remarkable ability to infect people who have already had COVID infection, vaccination, or both.

R0, or the primary reproduction number, for BF.7 is thought to range from 10 to 18.6. Accordingly, an infected person will spread the virus to 10 to 18.6 additional people on average. Omicron has an average R0 of 5.08, according to research.

People think that the high rate of BF.7 transmission and the risk of hidden spread caused by the large number of carriers who don’t have symptoms make it very hard to stop the epidemic in China.

The signs of an infection with BF.7, particularly the upper respiratory signs, are comparable to those of other Omicron subvariants. Patients may experience fever, cough, sore throat, runny nose, and fatigue, among other symptoms. Additionally, gastrointestinal symptoms like vomiting and diarrhea can be experienced by a small percentage of people.

A number of infected individuals exhibit no symptoms, contributing to the virus’s spread.

In those with weakened immune systems, BF.7 may well result in more severe illness. Li Tongzeng, a doctor at Beijing’s Xiaotangshan Hospital, told the Global Times that the virus is also better at avoiding the immune system. Immune escape is the inability of an organism’s immune system to respond to an infectious agent.

Several social media posts have circulated regarding the current crisis. The hospital staff and workers at funeral homes and crematoriums are putting in extra hours to accommodate the rising number of deceased. In one such video shared by The Telegraph on Twitter, a doctor collapses in his chair after working long hours. According to a video from The Telegraph, when his coworkers couldn’t wake him up, they helped him get out of his chair.

Some health experts say that in the next few months, 60% of the Chinese population, or 10% of the world’s population, could be infected, and more than 2 million people could die.

Mutation of BF.7 Subvariant

Since it first showed up three years ago, SARS-CoV-2 has changed, with genetic changes happening faster than expected.

As Omicron has changed over time, it has given rise to new subtypes that are better able to avoid being killed by a vaccine or a previous infection. BF.7 is identical.

BF.7 carries a specific mutation, R346T, in the SARS-CoV-2 spike protein (a protein on the surface of the virus that allows it to attach to and infect our cells). This mutation, also found in the “parent” version of BF.7, BA.5, has been linked to an increase in the virus’ ability to avoid neutralizing antibodies made by vaccines or previous infections.

A recent study looked at how BF.7 was neutralized in the sera (a part of the blood that should contain antibodies) of healthcare workers who had been vaccinated three times and patients who got sick during the Omicron BA.1 and BA.5 pandemic waves. The R346T mutation partially contributed to BF.7’s neutralization resistance.

It is alarming that BF.7 and other new variants have appeared. The best tool we still have to combat COVID is vaccination, though. Additionally, the recent approval of bivalent boosters by the UK drugs regulator, which also targets the original strain of SARS-CoV-2 and Omicron, is very encouraging.

BF.7 Around the Globe

The BF.7 subvariant is the main variant spreading in China, where easing (and in some cases completely removing) restrictions has led to a massive surge in infections and concerns among the global community about renewed waves of the deadly virus across the world.

BF.7 has also been detected in India, the United States, the United Kingdom, and several European nations, including Belgium, Germany, France, and Denmark.

Even though BF.7 can avoid the immune system and there are alarming signs of growth in China, the variant seems stable everywhere else. As of December 10, it was estimated to be responsible for 5.7% of infections in the United States, a decrease from 6.6% the week prior.

In an October technical briefing, the UK Health Security Agency said that BF.7 was one of the most problematic variants based on growth and neutralization data (it made up over 7% of cases at the time). However, the most recent briefing says BF.7 has been de-escalated because the number of cases has decreased and growth rates are low in the UK.

We cannot precisely explain why the situation in China appears different. The high R0 of BF.7 may be partially attributable to a low level of immunity in the Chinese population due to previous infection and possibly vaccination. Since the data from China is based on reports and not yet peer-reviewed evidence, we must be cautious.

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