The Philippines Department of Health (DOH), through its Center for Health Development (CHD) in the Cordillera Administrative Region (CAR), recently detected Omicron-BA.2.12. It is a sublineage of the currently circulating Omicron variant which has been recently flagged by the United States Center for Disease Control (US-CDC) to be observed in increasing COVID-19 cases in the United States from two weeks ago.
Scientists are still characterizing these Omicron sublineages in terms of transmissibility and if they can cause more severe disease. Preliminary data have shown that their mutations are associated with higher transmissibility. However, there is currently no evidence that these sublineages cause more severe disease.
The DOH surveillance systems detected BA.2.12 in a 52-year-old Finnish female who arrived from Finland last April 2, 2022. The case was not required to undergo routine isolation at a quarantine facility since she was fully vaccinated and arrived asymptomatic. The case then traveled to a university in Quezon City and then to Baguio City to conduct seminars. Nine days after her arrival in the country, she experienced mild symptoms such as headache and sore throat. She then tested positive for SARS-CoV-2 via Reverse Transcription Polymerase Chain Reaction (RT-PCR) the next day. Upon detection of this confirmed COVID-19 case, the local epidemiology and surveillance unit (LESU) performed contact tracing. Nine asymptomatic close contacts were identified. Two of them were tested and found to be negative.
Subsequently, the case has finished her 7-day isolation and has recovered and discharged. The patient returned to her home country on April 21, 2022.
The DOH assures the public that the country’s surveillance systems are able to detect new cases and characterize their lineage. The World Health Organization (WHO), based on global reports and data, declares whether a new variant of interest (VOI) or variant of concern (VOC) has been found. BA.2.12 at present is not a VOI or VOC. The public can avoid all variants, whether new or currently circulating, by continuing to wear the Best-fitting mask, Isolate when sick, Double-up protection through vaccination and boosters, and ensure good Airflow.
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