Covid-19: what we know about the BF.7 variant singled out in the explosion of cases in China

Covid-19: what we know about the BF.7 variant singled out in the explosion of cases in China

Very little detected in France, this sub-variant of Omicron was the majority in Beijing at the beginning of December. Its high contagiousness could be one of the origins of the explosion of Covid-19 cases in the country.

“It’s an explosive situation.” Imad Kansau, infectious disease specialist at Antoine-Bécière hospital in Clamart (Hauts-de-Seine), reacted on BFMTV to the meteoric increase in positive cases of Covid-19 in China and sounded the alarm.

Since the lifting, at the beginning of December, of the drastic health measures put in force at the start of the pandemic, “at least 250 million people have been infected in China”, affirmed on our antenna Christian Bréchot, virologist and president of the Global Virus Network. “Until recently, we were around 660 million since the start of the pandemic worldwide,” he added.

Figures that are “crashing”, partly due to the spread of a sub-variant of Omicron, BF.7. This BA.5 sub-line became the majority in Beijing at the beginning of the month, according to the specialized site live science.

A higher reproduction rate?

On December 16, Antoine Flahault, epidemiologist and director of the Institute of Global Health at the University of Geneva, wrote, on Twitterthat “BF.7 would have an R0 (virus reproduction rate) of 10 to 18.6. This means that an infected person will transmit the virus, on average, to between 10 and 18.6 other people, against 5.08 on average for Omicron”, quoting an article from the Chinese tabloid GlobalTimes.

According to Li Tongzeng, a medical expert at Xiaotangshan Hospital in Beijing, included in the article, the symptoms of BF.7 are similar to those of other Omicron subvariants: fever, cough, sore throat or vomiting. , diarrhoea…

Even if the first studies tend to affirm that BF.7 is not more virulent than the other Omicron mutations, its high contagiousness is a source of concern for the world health authorities.

The emergence of other mutations?

“A pandemic is a global, global problem. We cannot reason in Franco-French. What is happening in China will inevitably have an impact in one way or another on global health”, assured Christian Brechot.

“An explosion of cases in a fairly dramatic situation can have consequences in the rest of the world, declared infectious disease specialist Imad Kansau, for the rest of the countries, it is a breeding ground for viruses which can still give rise to mutants.

Indeed, the more the virus circulates, the more new variants or sub-variants with more dangerous characteristics may appear. The health risk would therefore not be immediate – especially in France where the vaccination rate is high.

“There will possibly be the emergence of more transmissible variants”, moreover alerted Antoine Flahault on our antenna.

But, monitoring the evolution of the epidemic in China will be more and more complicated. Since Sunday, the National Health Commission, equivalent to a ministry, has indicated that it would no longer publish the daily figures of Covid cases and deathsas she had been doing since the start of the pandemic.

The shutdown of the country’s economy

The tens of millions of daily cases detected in China could once again slow down the country’s activity and directly have repercussions on the rest of the world, in particular France with shortages of materials or even medicines.

For example, on December 24, Rémi Salomon, chairman of the AP-HP medical commission, recalled in a tweet that “80% of the active ingredients, the raw material for our medicines, are made in China and India”.

“The Covid wave which is currently overwhelming China risks aggravating our supply difficulties for many medicines”, he wrote, referring to the need to “relocate production”.

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