New COVID variants tracked ahead of cold, flu season

New COVID variants tracked ahead of cold and flu season
New COVID variants tracked ahead of cold and flu season(WAVE News)
Published: Oct. 24, 2022 at 4:49 PM EDT
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LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WAVE) - A new round of COVID variants produces a familiar pattern for cold and flu season.

Health officials are tracking the spread of the BQ.1 and BQ.1.1 strains of the virus. They are mutations of the previously dominant strain labeled BA.5.

“At this point, it is spiking over in Europe,” Dr. Mark Burns, UofL Health Infectious Disease Specialist said. “And it is anticipated we will have a spike this winter as well.”

The latest variants are similar to previous versions of the virus. They spread easily, but send fewer people to the hospital with serious symptoms.

BQ.1.1 has already been detected, but only briefly, in tests on Louisville wastewater.

”We did find evidence of BQ.1.1 three weeks ago in one of our large catchment areas in Louisville,” Ted Smith, Director of the UofL Center for Health Air Water and Soil said. “It serves southern Jefferson County. The very good news is that it disappeared as fast as it came. So for the last two weeks, we haven’t seen any recurring evidence of it. So that could’ve been somebody visiting the community, or variety of other circumstances that could make it appear. But we are very vigilant for the appearance of these new variants.”

In the three weeks following its detection, BQ.1.1 has not made a second appearance.

It is viewed as a temporary moment of relief in what is shaping up to be a busy cold season, as cases of the flu and children with RSV are on the rise.

”We are seeing an already busy hospital even busier,” Norton Chief Hospital Officer Charlotte Ipsan said. “So definitely we are seeing it and feeling it.”