BA.2.12.1 Omicron Sub-Variant first detected in NCR and Palawan

DOH recently found BA.2.12.1 positive cases. It is a sublineage of the currently circulating Omicron variant, which the US-CDC has identified as being associated with increasing COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations.

The Department of Health (DOH) recently identified cases positive for BA.2.12.1 through its Centers for Health Development (CHDs), the University of the Philippines - Philippine Genome Center (UP-PGC), the Research Institute for Tropical Medicine (RITM), and the University of the Philippines - National Institutes of Health (UP-NIH),

It is a sublineage of the circulating Omicron variant that the United States Center for Disease Control (US-CDC) has identified as being associated with increased COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations in the United States of America.

Scientists are still determining the transmissibility and ability to cause more severe disease of this Omicron sublineage. According to preliminary data, their mutations are associated with increased transmissibility and the ability to evade the immune response. However, current evidence does not indicate any disease severity or clinical manifestations changes.

The BA.2.12.1 strain was initially identified by the DOH COVID-19 surveillance system in two (2) local cases originating from the National Capital Region. Both were members of the same cluster and did not have any prior experience traveling internationally.

Both cases had minor symptoms and tested positive on April 22, 2022. They are currently symptom-free and have finished their home isolation. The patients have been fully immunized.

Twelve other BA.2.12.1 cases were discovered in a tourist cluster in Palawan, including 11 foreign nationals and one local. The cases were part of a group that left on a diving expedition on April 23, 2022. There were 18 Filipino crew members and 25 foreign nationals in that group.

One of the foreign nationals developed nasal congestion three days after leaving. After 1-2 days, one local and three other foreign nationals developed mild symptoms. When they returned to the port on April 29, fifteen tested positive for RT-PCR. Only 12 samples were chosen for whole-genome sequencing, and they all tested positive for BA.2.12.1.

All cases are currently asymptomatic and have been released from the facility. They were all fully immunized. Their ship's 28 close contacts tested negative and completed quarantine.

The DOH assures the public that our country's surveillance systems can detect and characterize new cases. Expert projections indicate a possible rise and peak in COVID-19 cases if a variant of concern (VOC) enters the country, especially given the current low booster coverage among the eligible population.

The vaccines are safe and effective, contributing to low healthcare utilization and the economy reopening under Alert Level 1. Everyone eligible for a booster shot is strongly encouraged to get one, as immunity has been shown to wane over time. (Source: DOH)
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