Monday July 15, 2024

‘Most infectious Omicron variant circulating in Pakistan’

By M Waqar Bhatti
January 17, 2023

KARACHI: The Aga Khan University (AKUH) Monday confirmed that the most infectious sub-variant of the Omicron variant of Coronavirus ‘XBB.1.5’ has been detected in the country through genome sequencing but cited ‘very good immunity’ among the general population as well extremely low testing in the country behind the detection of a very small number of Covid-19 cases in the country.

“Yes, we have found the XBB.1.5 sub-variant of Omicron variant of SARS-CoV-2 (Coronavirus) through genome sequencing of the virus from an infected patient”, an expert associated with AKU told The News. The expert, who requested anonymity, said probably low testing was the reason that a very small number of Covid-19 cases were being reported from the country and opined that most of the people infected with the new sub-variant of Coronavirus were not getting themselves tested despite having upper respiratory tract infections.

The National Institute of Health (NIH) Islamabad Monday said Covid-19 positivity remained at 0.36% when only 11 people tested positive after 3,085 tests were conducted and added that only 14 people were in critical condition throughout the country.

Commenting on the presence of XBB.1.5 sub-variant in Pakistan and its impacts, renowned infectious diseases expert Dr. Rana Jawad Asghar said XBB.1.5 is the most immunity-evading subvariant of the Omicron variant to date and it is infecting millions of people throughout the world including Pakistan. “Fortunately, it is not causing a severe disease so most of the people who are contracting upper respiratory tract infections are not getting themselves tested. Most of the people who are getting tested on daily basis are actually travellers, who are a healthier segment of society so we are not getting the actual situation of Covid-19 in the country”, Dr. Rana Jawad Asghar added.

According to him, genome sequencing of the Covid-19 positive cases was very low in Pakistan as compared to the rest of the world, claiming that genome sequencing of only 0.5 per cent of cases was being carried out, which was very low and non-systematic. Several pulmonologists (chest specialists) and general practitioners confirmed to The News that daily hundreds of people with upper respiratory tract infections were being reported from Karachi, saying despite having high-grade fever with flu-like conditions, these patients were not willing to get themselves tested for COVID-19 so they were being advised symptomatic treatment.

The “pulmonologists and general physicians are reporting a large number of patients with upper respiratory tract infections. It could be Covid-19 or the H1N1 influenza as both are spreading rapidly in the country.