The Omicron subvariant BA.4 is a very dangerous and infectious viral strain that spreads quickly. In India, it was first detected in Hyderabad, a city in the southern part of the country. The infection is highly contagious and spreads through air and water borne infections such as coughing and sneezing.
Scientists affiliated with the Indian SARS-CoV-2 Consortium on Genomics (INSACOG) said that from India, details of a BA.4 subvariant were entered on GISAID on May 9. Corroborating this statement, a scientist with the Indian Council for Medical Research also pointed out the possibility of random cases of BA.4 being detected in other cities in the country over the last few days.
This strain of the SARS CoV 2 virus which has been responsible for causing a major wave of fresh coronavirus infections in South Africa, like BA.2 subvariant, has been found capable of immune evasion from past infection and vaccination.
Scientists however are of the opinion that a new Covid surge is likely to stay at low levels given the extensive immunity in the Indian population due to the Omicron wave that struck India in January this year.
“We expect a similar kind of low surge in the coming days but is highly unlikely that there will be any dramatic rise in hospitalization due to severe COVID-19 sickness,” said an official attached to the National Centre for Disease Control under the Union health ministry which is heading the INSACOG project.
First Detected in Africa
The subvariants BA.4 alongside BA.5 were first identified in South Africa in January this year, while India was undergoing the third wave of Covid-19. BA.4 and BA.5 then went on to become the dominant variants in circulation in that country collectively replacing 55 percent of the other Covid-19 variants over the next 4 months according to the National Institute of Communicable Disease-South Africa.
Less Severe Than Omicron But More Contagious
Omicron subvariants BA.4 and BA.5 have been detected in more than a dozen countries driving Covid outbreaks across the world, according to the World Health Organization.
According to WHO’s technical lead on Covid Maria Van Kerkhove, at least 16 countries have reported about 700 cases of BA.4, while more than 300 cases of BA.5 have been found across at least 17 countries, CNBC reported.
The new sub-variants do not cause more severe infections as the original Omicron strain, but they appear to be more contagious, Van Kerkhove was quoted as saying during a Q&A on the organization’s social media platforms on Wednesday.
The European CDC had last week declared the two as ‘variants of concern’, anticipating “a significant overall increase in Covid-19 cases in the coming weeks and months.”