The Ministry of Health in St Lucia has confirmed the first case of the presence on the island of the highly contagious COVID-19 variant known as BA.5
The ministry said it was notified of the case by the Caribbean Public Health Agency (CARPHA).
It involves 36-year-old female from Vieux Fort who does not have a history of travel.
According to the ministry, this suggests in-country transmission of BA.5 and the presence of other cases.
The BA.5 is raising concerns around the world as it continues to gain traction in several countries, sparking new waves of cases and, in some instances, hospitalizations.
As of July 2, the BA.5 was responsible for nearly 54% of COVID cases in the U.S.
BA.4, a similar subvariant, accounted for nearly 17% more, according to the latest data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The fastest-spreading COVID-19 subvariants yet, the two latest versions of omicron appear to evade protection from vaccines and previous infections more easily than any others before.
According to the University of California, the reported symptoms of BA.5 are similar to previous COVID variants: fever, runny nose, coughing, sore throat, headaches, muscle pain and fatigue. At this point, there doesn’t appear to be a difference in the symptoms seen in BA.4 or BA.5 cases, compared to earlier omicron strains.
It’s not entirely clear where BA.4 and BA.5 originated, but they’ve been detected in several countries in Southern Africa and Europe, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).
WHO’s technical lead on COVID-19, Maria Van Kerkhove, said in May that the variants have been detected in Botswana, South Africa, Germany, and Denmark, among other countries.
Meanwhile, in St Lucia, the Ministry of Health is appealing to the public to “ensure that the proven public health protective measures are in place to prevent us from getting sick and to protect the most vulnerable.”
“The public is reminded that the threat of COVID-19 and its complications still exists, especially given Saint Lucia’s low immunization rate,” the ministry said in a statement. “Personal responsibility is extremely important at this time, to reduce transmission of infection to ourselves and our family. The public is guided to continue the use of facemasks in public, ensure hand washing and proper general sanitization. The public is also advised to use their discretion, ensure they and their vulnerable family members are fully vaccinated and boosted before attending mass crowd events.”