coronavirus vaccines. In a recent report, the Mayo Clinic said that the strain is "hypercontagious" and is contributing to increases in hospitalisations and ICU admissions.
Those yet to be vaccinated against Covid-19 have about a five times higher chance of contracting the virus compared to those who are vaccinated and boosted, while chances of hospitalisation are 7.5 times higher, and chances of death are 14 to 15 times higher, said Gregory Poland, Head of the Mayo Clinic's Vaccine Research Group. The two new subvariants were earlier spotted in South Africa in April and quickly spread worldwide and also have a high transmission rate. They carry mutations on their spike protein – the part of the virus that attaches to ACE2 receptors on human cells so they can enter them.
The BA.5 strain represented 65% of Covid-19 cases in the US in the week ending 9 July, as per the latest data from the US Centers of Disease Control and Prevention. It's not yet clear whether the BA.4 and BA.5 subvariants evolved from the original Omicron variant, as experts believe they likely evolved from the previously dominant BA.2 Omicron variant.
Meanwhile, WHO chief scientist Soumya Swaminathan has asked people to be prepared for fresh Covid-19 waves. Amid the onset of new variants that are more transmissible, immune evasive and growing concerns about greater hospitalisations, the WHO chief said.
“We need to be prepared for these #COVID19 waves -- each new #variant will be more transmissible & immune evasive -- higher numbers infected will translate into greater hospitalisations & sickness. All countries must have a data driven plan to quickly respond to changing situations," Swaminathan wrote on Twitter.
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