Health

BQ.1.1 has spread rapidly across the country in recent weeks.

Moderna COVID-19 Booster Vaccine. Rogelio V. Solis/Associated Press

Before Christmas, a new strain of COVID-19 emerged in Massachusetts.

A subvariant, known as BQ.1.1, is related to the omicron family and currently accounts for 39 percent of the state’s COVID-19 cases, making it the dominant variant in Massachusetts. Boston Globe reported.

Nationally, BQ.1.1 and its sibling BQ.1 accounted for nearly 50 percent of COVID cases last week, according to data Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. BA.5, the variety that dominated the country all summer, now seems to be giving way to BQ.1.1 and BQ.1. The latest CDC figures estimate that about 24 percent of cases nationwide are caused by BA.5.

The boosters distributed this fall were intended to combat the BA.5. Both Pfizer and Moderna recently said their booster shots work by triggering immune responses against BQ.1.1 and BQ.1, CNBC reported.

BQ.1.1 may pose an increased risk to immunocompromised people and those who develop severe infections, according to Globe. The two dominant antibodies probably won’t work as well against the new variants.

“If you’re unlucky enough to end up in the hospital with a serious illness, the arsenal of doctors they have to treat you will be more limited,” Dr. William Hanage, associate professor of epidemiology at the Harvard TH Chan School of Public Health, said Globe.

While these variants may be more dangerous for some, a broader surge in infections does not appear to be imminent in Massachusetts. Latest data from Massachusetts Department of Public Health shows that the number of cases in the state has remained relatively constant over the past month. Analysis of sewage from ul Massachusetts Water Resources Authoritya powerful tool used for early insight into future COVID trends, it does not show significantly rising levels of the virus since last Thursday.

“The vast majority of vaccinated people have no particular cause for concern about BQ.1.1,” Hanage said. Globe.

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