BREAKING – EXCLUSIVE: A new sub-lineage to the COVID-19 Omicron BA.5 virus has been reported in one-quarter of the cases in the latest report of test batches from Allegany County, NY.
The information was found today in the Allegany County Department of Health‘s response to our daily Freedom of Information Law (FOIL) request for localized COVID data for Wednesday, with three out of 16 weekly test reports for the period September 19 through 23 from the State Health Department showing a BF.16 strain and one BF.10. A re-check of reports also shows a BF.5 positive on September 1.
Allegany Hope Community News queried County Health Director Tyler Shaw after being unable to find anything about the strains, other than in a Taiwan report from last month.
Shaw said he was able to find references for Israel, India, the United States, Spain, and Denmark.
Asked about the potential that the new sub-variant could be the beginning of a new spread, as occurred several months ago with the BA.5 variant being found in the Onondaga County area and then mushrooming nthroughout the nation, the director said “the risks of these variants are apparent and Omicron as we know is highly contagious.
“This can mean that the sub variants can also be just as contagious, or sometimes variants go the other direction as well (are short-lived).”
He said that “we recommend at this point that if you are eligible for a bivalent booster dose, to find a clinic location closest to you and get vaccinated.”
At this point he said he hasn’t heard anything from the State Health Department in regard to this particular strain.
“I am unable to predict the chances of a new variant taken hold within our communities,” Shaw said. “We are always on high alert as we move into flu season because many symptoms are shared between COVID and flu.”
As a side note, he reported his department is “anticipating flu cases to rise earlier than normal this season so (we) highly recommend a flu vaccination this year.
“If you have not thought about flu vaccine or skipped them in the past, we encourage everyone to get vaccinated and call if they have any questions, particularly about flu cases/vaccinations.”
As of yesterday, only 44 individuals have obtained a bivalent COVID booster from the county health department, although some pharmacies and other healthcare providers also are administering the shots.
Allegany County continues to have the lowest overall vaccination rate for first doses in New York State at slightly over 50 percent, compared with a statewide level of 93 percent. The lowest state rating for first doses, as reported by the New York Times, is 60 percent in Wyoming.
The bivalent dose, available to eligible individuals who have received the basic COVID vaccination series, is particularly formulated as a prevention against the BA.4 and BA.5 variants which comprise nearly all of current cases.
The CDC and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), as of yesterday, have approved a new modified booster for children as young as five years of age.
The percentage of individuals receiving prior and current boosters is much less than for the original doses, authorities report, with most people not even being aware of the new type of boosters.
Public clinics for both bivalent boosters and flu shots are available at various county locations, with the schedule and required registration at https://bit.ly/3qZ5Fsy or the health department at (585) 268-9250, or through our Allegany Hope Community Calendar at https://bit.ly/3yYyVUt.
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