OMICRON | Health authorities have detected a new subvariant of the COVID-19 Omicron variant, known as BA.2, or “stealth” Omicron.
BA.2 has been detected in at least 40 countries.
Virologists are watching BA.2 closely as a surge of cases has occurred in multiple countries, including Denmark, which currently hosts most detections, CNN Health and CBC report.
The World Health Organization has commenced research and asked officials to study the new subvariant separately from Omicron.
Health officials have reiterated that it is too early to anticipate if the new strain will present a more severe threat.
What You Need To Know
- Medical and health bodies say there are multiple lineages of the Omicron variant of COVID-19
- The majority of BA.2 detections have occurred in Europe
- Vaccination remains necessary to provide the best protection against the Omicron variant of COVID-19 with three studies finding that unvaccinated individuals face higher risks of becoming sick, according to CNN Health
The World Health Organization has said the appearance of a subtype, called BA.2, is increasing in many countries. A pair of cases have also been found in Santa Clara County, Northern California’s most populous county.
“We don’t really know what that means yet. We’ll be learning that in the days and weeks to come,” said Dr. Sara Cody, the county’s health officer and public health director. “So far, we don’t really know how it behaves.”WHO
Dr. Peter Chin-Hong, a UC San Francisco infectious-disease expert, said Wednesday that there’s nothing in the early data right now that makes him worried about BA.2.
“And the reason why I’m not worried is because I’m confident that, if you get boosted … you wouldn’t go to the hospital,” Chin-Hong said.
“I’m not worried about it as being more deadly,” he said, based on early data out of Denmark, but added that he’s “keeping an open mind. You never know what’s going to happen. It has a few more mutations. But I’ll be shocked if it makes you sicker.”
BA.2 will still be a risk for infecting people who haven’t been vaccinated and haven’t had prior exposure to Omicron. “I think our vaccines and our boosters will still work,” Chin-Hong said.
“On Monday, the World Health Organization said research into how BA.2 operates should be ‘prioritized independently’ from other Omicron subvariants.
There are global signals the BA.2 subvariant is somewhat more transmissible, echoing the early days of Omicron’s spread, said Jesse Shapiro, an associate professor of microbiology and immunology at McGill University.”
“The PANGO directory of coronaviruses, which is regularly updated by scientists from the universities of Oxford, Edinburgh and Cambridge, lists Denmark as the most affected area, with 79% of the cases detected so far.
It is followed by Great Britain (6%), India (5%), Sweden (2%) and Singapore (2%). However, it should be noted that detection of the subtype depends on the ability of individual health systems to sequence PCR tests.”
It is a highly contagious subvariant of Omicron has emerged, which some have begun calling “son of Omicron,” but public health officials say it’s too soon to tell what kind of real threat, if any, this new strain will present.
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