Tagbilaran City Mayor Baba Yap on Thursday called for continued vigilance and observance of health safety measures amid suspicion that a variant of SARS-Cov-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, may already be in the city based on the observed increase in the transmission rate of the disease.
According to Yap, who heads the city’s Inter-Agency Task Force (IATF) for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases, infections have recently been detected in multiple members of households, contrary to the usual isolated case in a single residence which was previously observed.
“Paspas kaayo ang transmission, ang atong pagtuo mao ni siya ang bag-ong variant, especially na notice nato na sauna kung positive ang isa ka member sa household dili man matakdan ang ubang members,” Yap said.
“Karon, kung matakdan gani ang isa, mura’g halos ma automatic na matakdan g’yud ang tanan members sa household,” he added.
Bohol Medical Society president Dr. Jefferson Ong earlier shared the same insight, noting that the COVID-19 outbreaks in Dauis and Ubay in February may have been fueled by the presence of a variant of the virus.
There has been no confirmation from the Department of Health (DOH) however as to the whether or not a variant of the virus has been detected in the province.
In March, the DOH announced that two highly contagious variants of the coronavirus had already been detected in all cities within Metro Manila.
The spread of the variants may have helped fuel the rapid increase in COVID-19 cases in the metropolis, the DOH said.
In a virtual press briefing early in March, Bohol Inter-Agency Task Force spokesperson Dr. Yul Lopez announced that a mutation of SARS-CoV-2 that is linked to increased transmissibility was detected in the province.
Lopez said the B1.1.28 mutation was detected in 16 COVID-stricken individuals in Bohol as reported by the Philippine Genome Center (PGC).
The mutation of “potential clinical significance” was found in 14 Dauis residents, one Bilar resident and one Maribojoc resident.
Lopez said that Bohol health authorities, in the first week of February, sent 80 samples from COVID-positive individuals to the PGC for genome sequencing and 16 of these were found to have the mutated coronavirus.
All 16 COVID-infected individuals recovered from the disease.
Difference among strain, variant, mutation
“A strain of a virus has distinct properties and a particular immune response. Then there’s going to be lots and lots of variants which will be, in many cases, minor accumulations of mutations and different kind of genetic lines of that strain,” Jean-Paul Soucy, a Ph.D. student at the University of Toronto’s Dalla Lana School of Public Health, told in an interview with Canadian television network CTV News.
“All currently known variants of COVID-19 belong to the SARS-CoV-2 strain and have not mutated enough to either be classified as their own strain or be ineffective against current and prospective COVID-19 vaccines,” Soucy added.
For his part, health reform advocate Dr. Tony Leachon explained that the term “variant” is used “when classifying a known virus that has developed a ‘specific group of mutations’ that causes the variant to behave differently than that of the strain it originated from.”
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), on the other hand, said that a virus may be deemed a mutation if there is a change in the “nucleotide sequence of the RNA (a nucleic acid that serves as a messenger carrying genetic information) of the virus.”
“This variant has a mutation in the receptor-binding domain (RBD) of the spike protein at position 501, where amino acid asparagine (N) has been replaced with tyrosine (Y). The shorthand for this mutation is N501Y, sometimes noted as S:N501Y to specify that it is in the spike protein,” the CDC explained. (A. Doydora)