BA.5 Omicron subvariant poses lung risk, says doctor

BA.5 Omicron subvariant poses lung risk, says doctor

People wait for a vaccine shot outside Bang Sue Grand Station on July 10, 2022, amid a new wave of Covid-19 infections. The country’s largest vaccination centre is offering jabs to both walk-ins and by appointment. (Photo: Apichart Jinakul)
People wait for a vaccine shot outside Bang Sue Grand Station on July 10, 2022, amid a new wave of Covid-19 infections. The country’s largest vaccination centre is offering jabs to both walk-ins and by appointment. (Photo: Apichart Jinakul)

The latest subvariant of the Omicron strain of the coronavirus is as harmful to the lungs as the previous Delta variant although it still mainly attacks only the most vulnerable groups -- the unvaccinated and the under-vaccinated -- says an expert from Siriraj Hospital.

Among people currently receiving Covid-19 treatment, about 800 are suffering from lung infections which account for about 8% of all Covid-19 hospitalisations, says Dr Nithipat Jearakul, head of Siriraj Hospital's Department of Respiratory Disease and Tuberculosis within the Department of Internal Medicine at the Faculty of Medicine.

The 8% represent a five-fold decrease from the lung infection rate of 30-40% caused by the previous Delta strain.

"However, in terms of severity, the current infections and those caused by Delta are not very different," Dr Nithipat said.

The BA.5 subvariant of Omicron is mainly responsible for recent flareups, which are expected to peak late this month and remain high next month before they begin dropping during the next school break, said Dr Yong Poovorawan, chief of the Centre of Excellence in Clinical Virology at the Department of Paediatrics of Chulalongkorn University's Faculty of Medicine, earlier.

Dr Nithipat said lung infections now mostly affect people in the so-called "608" group -- people aged 60 years and older, those with underlying diseases and pregnant women -- as well as those who received only one or two doses of vaccine or none at all.

Very few of those sick with lung infections had a history of receiving booster shots, he noted.

"Acquiring sufficient booster jabs can prevent hospitalisation and death," Dr Nithipat said.

Meanwhile, deputy government spokeswoman Rachada Dhnadirek said caseloads have risen although most sufferers were in the "green" group with slight or mild symptoms such as a fever, temporary loss of taste and smell, sore throat, cough and runny nose.

People who test positive following an antigen test are advised to see a doctor under their respective universal health insurance programme.

Those not suffering from serious Covid-19 symptoms are advised to do home isolation for 10 days. If patients are in the 608 group, doctors will carry out a deeper examination of their conditions.

The National Health Security Office (NHSO) has added a telemedicine service where Covid-19 sufferers in home isolation can receive remote consultations and may be dispensed free medication, including the antiviral Favipiravir, straight to their homes if needed.

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