Probe into sub-variant's potency

Probe into sub-variant's potency

DMS studies likelihood of surge in new infections

Department of Sciences director-general Supakit Sirilak
Department of Sciences director-general Supakit Sirilak

The Department of Medical Sciences (DMS) is studying whether the BA.2 sub-variant of the Omicron variant is more virulent than its cousins, says director-general Dr Supakit Sirilak.

He was responding to concerns that BA.2 could trigger a more serious Covid-19 infection situation in Thailand when compared with the sub-variant BA.1, as more cases of BA.2 have now been detected here recently.

''Normally it takes at least 14 days to follow up on the condition of Covid-19 patients to determine how severe their disease is, while it is actually best to monitor them until they fully recover,'' he said.

While the DMS is studying the BA.2 sub-variant in a real-life setting, doctors won't have to know from the beginning if it is BA.1 or BA.2 that is behind any new infections as treatment could be given based on displayed symptoms of each infection, he said.

"We're treating patients based on their symptoms. And [once again] Covid-19 vaccines are capable of preventing severe disease, whether it be Delta or Omicron," he said.

From Feb 5 until Feb 11, out of 1,975 cases of Omicron infection, about 500 were found to be BA.2, or about 18.5%, he said.

"A great virus is one that kills only between 3% and 5% of the people it infects while it continues to spread," he said.

The Delta variant has claimed more than 200 lives in every 10,000 infections, while the BA.1 sub-variant of Omicron only kills about 20 people out of the same number of people it infects, he said.

''Whether Omicron's BA.2 sub-variant will be the same or worse remains to be seen,'' he said.

Although BA.2 is capable of spreading more easily and faster, the new sub-variant doesn't appear to be more virulent than BA.1, said Dr Yong Poovorawan, head of the Centre of Excellence in Clinical Virology at Chulalongkorn University.

Meanwhile, Opas Karnkawinpong, director-general of the Department of Disease Control, said he wanted people to comply with the Ministry of Public Health's VUCA (Vaccine, Universal Prevention, Covid19 Free Setting and ATK) measures to help curb the spread of Covid-19 in the lead-up to the Songkran festival in April when large numbers of people will gather for celebrations.

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