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New COVID-19 Sub Variant Hits Island – 12 Cases So Far

Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Sharon Belmar-George
Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Sharon Belmar-George

Saint Lucian Health officials have disclosed the presence of the COVID-19 sub variant XBB1.5 on island.

According to the Ministry of Health, Wellness and Elderly Affairs, the Caribbean Public Health Agency  confirmed that 12 cases of COVID-19 sub variant have been detected here .

This sub variant of Omicron has been circulating in China, the United States, United Kingdom and also other countries in the region. The cases are distributed in most districts in Saint Lucia, although the northern and central regions of the country are most affected.

In a public statement, this week, Chief Medical Officer (CMO) Dr. Sharon Belmar-George shed some light on this latest health issue.

“We estimate that this variant is already widely distributed across the country at this point. Seven of the cases received are male and five are female, ages range from 5-74 years with one hospitalized case,” Dr. Belmar- George explained.

“At present we have sequenced about 13 sub-variants of omicron circulating in country,” the CMO added.

Dr. Belmar-George noted that, “Based on its genetic characteristics and growth rate estimates, XBB.1.5 is likely to contribute to increases in case incidents. There is also evidence for increased risk of transmission and it seems more resistant than earlier strains to antibodies, re-infection and vaccines.”

She explained that the symptoms range from typical cold symptoms such as cough, to shortness of breath and to cases that require medical attention. Other symptoms include fever, chills, fatigue, muscle or body aches, sore throat, nausea or vomiting and diarrhea.

Health officials say these symptoms typically last from 5 to 7 days.

It has been noted that the symptoms of this new variant have become less severe due to prior infection and immunization.

However, the CMO cautioned the public to take precautionary measures and be aware of the long-lasting effects of the virus.

Added Dr. Belmar- George: “Persons with this COVID-19 sub variant are also at risk for Long COVID, which causes a wide range of health problems that can last for weeks or months or longer.

“Vaccination and staying up to date on COVID-19 boosters remains an effective form of protection from serious illness, hospitalization and death.”

Meanwhile, health officials continue to agitate for persons to observe proper sanitization measures, healthy lifestyles and proper coughing etiquette to reduce the spread of respiratory illness.

Health officials state, in addition to COVID-19 there are other respiratory viruses in circulation which may possess similar clinical presentation to COVID-19. In several countries, there has been a steep increase in cases of influenza and Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV).

The ministry has listed several pointers to reduce the impact of the virus.

Consequently, the following measures are advised:

Keep healthy and build immunity by consuming healthy foods daily such as fruits and vegetables, increased fluids and regular exercise.

Maintain sanitary measures at home, at work and at school. Ensure regular cleaning and disinfection of surfaces and cough etiquette.

Persons with chronic health conditions are advised to ensure compliance to medication to keep their condition controlled.

Mask use is strongly advised. All symptomatic persons should wear face masks if interacting with others or in public.

Persons who are symptomatic should be managed based on their symptoms with Panadol, cough syrup, increased fluids and rest.

If your condition worsens, visit the nearest wellness centre or private health facility.

Children who are exhibiting active infection should be kept at home until they recover. Ensure face mask use if they interact with others.

The Influenza and Covid-19 vaccines are available at all Wellness Centres and especially high risk patients are advised to get them.

Health officials say they will continue to monitor the situation and provide guidance as needed.

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