DOH detects Cebu variant – Manila Standard

The Department of Health on Thursday said “two mutations of concern” were detected in patients who tested positive for COVID-19 in Cebu.

Dr. Juanito Zuasola Jr., an epidemiologist from the Vicente Sotto Memorial Medical Center, called the mutations – E484K and N501Y – “homegrown.”

“Whether this variation is virulent, we still need to study some more. But one thing is for sure, this could probably be one of the major reasons why there was a second spike,” he said.

DOH Central Visayas spokesperson and chief pathologist Dr. Mary Jean Loreche said the mutations were found in 37 of the 50 samples from patients in Cebu City, Mandaue City, Lapu-Lapu City and Cebu province that underwent genome sequencing.

Majority of the samples – 29 out of 50 – had “co-occurence” of the two mutations, she said.

“There is no name yet. They have not identified the entire sequence… These two mutations of concern are actually of global concern (because) they are related to increased transmissibility,” she said.

“Whether these are going to be more virulent, would cause a more severe disease or be more pathogenic, it is hard to say. We have to wait first… We need to be more cautious, but not too cautious that we have to lock down,” Loreche added.

She said 91 more samples have been sent to the Philippine Genome Center.

“We are thankful to the PGC for giving us guidance on this. It should help us prepare and also do the necessary mitigating factors to control our cases,” she said.

The country earlier recorded 44 cases of COVID-19 with the more transmissible UK variant.

Earlier this month, a British minister in charge of vaccine deployment said there are now around 4,000 variants of the novel coronavirus around the world and vaccine makers must improve their shots to combat the new strains.

“All manufacturers, Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna, Oxford-AstraZeneca and others, are looking at how they can improve their vaccine to make sure that we are ready for any variant – there are about 4,000 variants around the world of COVID now,” British Minister Nadhim Zahawi said.

“It’s very unlikely that the current vaccine won’t be effective on the variants especially when it comes to severe illness and hospitalization,” he added.

According to the British Medical Journal, only a very small minority of the mutated strains are likely to be important even as thousands of variants have been detected.

Meanwhile, a returning overseas Filipino worker from the United Arab Emirates has contracted COVID-19 despite receiving two vaccine doses, Loreche said.

She said the OFW, who arrived in the country on January 5, received the jabs on December 12, 2020 and January 2.

Five family members of the OFW likewise tested positive and are now under isolation.

“We know that even if a person is given the vaccine, this does not guarantee that you will have immunity. A vaccine prevents a severe disease. So if you were vaccinated and you contracted COVID, your will not suffer severe symptoms or be confined at the intensive care unit,” she said.

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