The Tamil Nadu Health and Family Welfare department on Saturday said that it had identified a COVID-19 case of BA.4 variant in the state through whole genome sequencing done at the State Public Health Laboratory.
This is the second case of BA.4 variant reported in the country. A case was reported in Telangana on May 20. However, officials here said that a confirmation on the finding was awaited from the National Centre for Disease Control.
The patient is a 19-year-old girl living in a four-member household in a gated community in Navalur in Chengalpattu district. She and her mother got themselves tested after developing flu-like symptoms. They tested positive on May 9. Their samples were subsequently sent by the health department for whole genome sequencing.
Officials said that the two of them isolated themselves at home and recovered from the symptoms within three days. The two did not have any travel history.
Both the cases were caused by the Omicron variant of SARS-CoV-2 virus. However, while the mother had the BA.2 sub-lineage of Omicron, the daughter had the BA.4 variant. Health Secretary J. Radhakrishnan visited the family on Friday and enquired about their health. Officials said that no other cases have been reported in the gated community so far.
Concern over BA.4 and BA.5 variants
The scientific community has expressed concern over the possibility of the BA.4 and BA.5 variants causing a rise in COVID-19 cases with the US and Europe reporting cases of these variants.
Dr. Radhakrishnan said that the identification of BA.4 variant in the state need not be a cause of immediate panic. He, however, stressed on the importance of all eligible persons getting vaccinated and the need to adhere to COVID-19 appropriate behaviour.
Tamil Nadu Health and Family Welfare Minister Ma. Subramanian said that the swift identification of a BA.4 variant was possible because of the capacity to do whole genome sequencing at SPHL. He said that Tamil Nadu was the only government to have such facility.
Officials said that a total of 3,328 samples have been subjected to whole genome sequencing from January to May, of which 96% of samples were of Omicron variant. While BA.2 was the predominant variant reported in 73% of the samples, BA.1 variant was also reported to an extent.