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MOHW Monitors Omicron BA.5 Variant in Belize

The Ministry of Health and Wellness (MOHW) says the new COVID-19 subvariant, Omicron BA.5 can cause another wave of infections soon.  According to the Ministry’s Director of Public Health and Wellness, Dr. Melissa Diaz-Musa, they have been able to control the number of cases in previous Omicron outbreaks by implementing preventative measures and enhancing surveillance.  Dr. Diaz-Musa says that the ministry is expecting an increase in cases due to the new Omicron BA. 5 being easily transmissible; however, they are monitoring the recent reports to control infection rates at an early stage.

Dr.Melissa Diaz Musa, Director of Public Health and Wellness: “It seems now that although we have been seeing in the last two weeks a slight reduction in the daily cases and in the fourteen-day rolling average we see a reduction as well. It’s not extremely significant and with the BA.5 here now we feel that more than likely we’ll continue with an increase in cases at this time. Most countries have , and I’m sure Belize will follow suit, that they’ve gone through outbreaks with all these different subvariants and more than likely this is what we will continue to see now increase in cases. We know that BA.5 is very transmissible. BA.4 and BA.5 have been pooled together because these two sublineages tend to have very similar mutations so they’re lumped together but we have only detected BA.5 so far in country. And of course with that detection we really do feel that there are more cases in country and so we’re waiting to get our second report which should be out in the next week or so to see exactly if the percentages have changed from the BA.2 to the BA.5.”

According to research, the BA.4 and BA.5 subvariants may evade the protection of neutralizing antibodies from previous infections and vaccinations; however, Dr. Diaz-Musa explained that the body has a cellular response which protects you against more severe outcomes of the virus such as hospitalization or death.  The ministry is also monitoring the shift in the incubation period and symptoms. 

Dr.Melissa Diaz Musa, Director of Public Health and Wellness: “We know that the incubation period has lessened. If you can recall at the beginning of the pandemic we were looking at fourteen days of incubation period so if you were for instance exposed to somebody who was positive you have from the day of exposure until fourteen days on average to be able to have some symptom or show some sign that you have been infected. With Omicron we are seeing and research is showing that the incubation period has lessed so we’re looking at three to five days. So if I’m exposed today I go into quarantine for three days and I test and I’m negative on average it’s unlikely that I’m infected.”

Dr. Diaz-Musa explained that vaccines reduce the severity of the symptoms and decreased the length of infection. The MOHW is already looking to procure vaccines that are geared at specific lineages of Omicron.