Close contacts of Philippines' first BA.4 case asymptomatic: health dept

Gillan Ropero, ABS-CBN News

Posted at May 24 2022 02:11 PM | Updated as of May 24 2022 06:00 PM

This scanning electron microscope image shows SARS-CoV-2 (orange)—also known as 2019-nCoV, the virus that causes COVID-19—isolated from a patient in the U.S., emerging from the surface of cells (gray) cultured in the lab. Credit: NIAID-RML
This scanning electron microscope image shows SARS-CoV-2 (orange)—also known as 2019-nCoV, the virus that causes COVID-19—isolated from a patient in the U.S., emerging from the surface of cells (gray) cultured in the lab. Credit: NIAID-RML

MANILA (UPDATE) - All 3 close contacts of the Philippines' first BA.4 case are asymptomatic, the Department of Health said Tuesday.

The patient, who was unvaccinated and asymptomatic, had a travel history from Qatar and South Africa, according to Dr. Alethea de Guzman, officer-in-charge of the DOH Epidemiology Bureau. 

The returning Filipino had completed his mandatory quarantine from May 4 to 18 before coming in close contact with 3 members of his household, who were all asymptomatic and fully vaccinated, De Guzman said.

The testing status of the close contacts is being verified, according to the DOH.

The European Center for Disease Prevention and Control has classified BA.4 as a variant of concern (VOC), which means it can be more transmissible or "cause worse illness."

The ECDC has "evidence on the ground that would merit" classifying the 2 subvarinats as a VOC, according to Dr. Cynthia Saloma, executive director of the Philippine Genome Center.

"For now, we’re looking at the recommendation of the WHO and other relevant agencies. Di po natin macoconsider yun [as VOC]," she said.

The sublineage may not cause severe COVID-19 symptoms compared to other omicron subvariants but can potentially overwhelm hospitals again because of its transmissibility, according to studies.

Meantime, the DOH has yet to detect another case of omicron BA.2.12.1 after tallying 17 in total, De Guzman said.

All 12 patients in Puerto Princesa City had finished their quarantine while the health agency is monitoring 2 hospitalized patients in Iloilo City, she added.

"Tayo ay nakakakita ng kaunting pagtaas ng kaso pero una ito ay maliit, hindi lumalagpas ng 100 ang ating mga active cases," she said."

"Ikalawa, anumang pagtaas di nagigingd hailan upang dumami o tumaas ang mga admission o utilization rate."

Despite this, the public is urged to observe minimum health standards and get vaccinated and boosted when eligible, De Guzman said.

"Kahit hindi tayo nakakakita ng significant negetive impact nitong variants na ito sa ngayon, kailangan ngayon pa lang tayo ay naghahanda at tinaatasan ang proteksyon. That’s our minimum public health standards and availing of primary and booster doses," she said.

(Even if we do not see a significant negative impact of these variants right now, we should be prepared and strengthen our protection.)

Some 69 million people or 76.76 percent of the eligible 90 million population have been fully vaccinated against the respiratory disease. At least 13.89 million have received their booster shots.

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