Doctors, health experts monitoring omicron subvariant BA.2

LINCOLN, Neb. (KOLN) - Health experts across the country are keeping their eyes on a subvariant of Omicron called BA. 2. Currently, there are two cases of BA.2 in Douglas County.

BA.2 is one of the three strains of Omicron. BA. 1 was the widely dominant strain here in the United States.

The University of Nebraska Medical’s Center top infectious doctor, Dr. Mark Rupp, said right now, BA.2 is not much to worry about, but doctors are keeping watch over how it performs and behaves.

Initial research shows two main things: it seems this strain is likely more transmissible, and it seems like it there is significant genetic divergence from BA.1. Dr. Rupp said the genetic deviation between BA.2 and BA.1 is the same degree of variability between the Delta Variant and Alpha, the original strain of COVID-19.

“It’s actually fairly large,” Dr. Rupp said. “It’s certainly possible it has some very different performance characteristics or behavior characteristics.”

Right now, BA.2 is heavily impacting Denmark and India.

“They saw their curve continuing to go up when many countries that didn’t have as much BA.2 saw their curve come back down. This is reason to watch it closely and figure out if it is indeed more fit, more competitive, more dangerous than BA.1,” Dr. Rupp said.

Dr. Rupp said the reason health officials are watching BA.2′s every move is the transmissibility rate, although initial data shows that BA.2 is not causing more severe infection.

“The problem is is that if you have a virus that is extremely transmissible, but actually has a lower lethality than a prior variant of that virus,” Dr. Rupp said. “You’ll end up seeing more cases, more hospitalizations and more deaths just because of the sheer, overwhelming number of cases.”

To date, BA.2 has been identified in 49 countries and 30 states. Dr. Rupp said there is no reason to be worried yet, but it’s important to keep practicing pharmacologic interventions, like mask-wearing and vaccination.

Previously this strain has been called the “stealth variant” because of how it shows up in testing. Dr. Rupp called that a misnomer, saying this variant is easily detected and won’t slip past any PCR testing or sequencing.

Initial research shows two main things: strain is likely more transmissible, and it seems like it there is significant genetic divergence from BA.1.

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