Jan. 25, 2022 — A brand new, extremely contagious subvariant of Omicron has emerged, which some have begun calling “son of Omicron,” however public well being officers say it is too quickly to inform what sort of actual risk, if any, this new pressure will current.
Within the meantime, it is price watching BA.2, the World Well being Group says. The subvariant has been recognized throughout at the least 40 international locations, together with three instances reported in Houston and a number of other in Washington state.
BA.2 accounts for less than a small minority of reported instances to this point, together with 5% in India, 4% of these in the UK, and a pair of% every of instances in Sweden and Singapore.
The one exception is Denmark, a rustic with sturdy genetic sequencing talents, the place estimates vary from 50% to 81% of instances.
The information throws a bit extra uncertainty into an already unsure state of affairs, together with how shut we is likely to be to a much less life-altering infectious illness.
For instance, the world is at an excellent level for a brand new variant to emerge, WHO Director Normal Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, PhD, stated throughout a Monday assembly of the WHO government board. He additionally stated it is too early to name an “finish sport” to the pandemic.
Equally, Anthony Fauci, MD, stated on Jan. 19 that it remained “an open question” whether or not the Omicron variant might hasten endemic COVID-19, a state of affairs the place the virus nonetheless circulates however is way much less disruptive to on a regular basis life.
No Pi for You
This could possibly be the primary time a coronavirus subvariant rises to the extent of a family title, or — if earlier variants of the second have proven us — it might recede from the highlight.
For instance, plenty of give attention to the potential of the Mu variant to wreak havoc fizzled out a couple of weeks after the WHO listed it as a variant of curiosity on Aug. 30.
Subvariants can characteristic mutations and different small variations however are usually not distinct sufficient from an current pressure to be referred to as a variant on their very own and be named after the subsequent letter within the Greek alphabet. That is why BA.2 isn’t referred to as the “Pi variant.”
Predicting what’s subsequent for the coronavirus has puzzled many specialists all through the pandemic. That’s the reason many public well being officers look ahead to the WHO to officially designate a pressure as a variant of curiosity or variant of concern earlier than taking motion.
In the meanwhile with BA.2, it appears shut monitoring is warranted.
As a result of it is too early to name, skilled predictions about BA.2 range broadly, from fear to cautious optimism.
For instance, early knowledge signifies that BA.2 could possibly be extra worrisome than authentic Omicron, Eric Feigl-Ding, ScD, an epidemiologist and well being economist, says on Twitter.
Data from Denmark appears to point out BA.2 both has “a lot quicker transmission or it evades immunity much more,” he says.
The identical day, Jan. 23, Feigl-Ding tweeted that different knowledge exhibits the subvariant can unfold twice as quick as Omicron, which was already rather more contagious than earlier variations of the virus.
On the similar time, different specialists seem much less involved. Robert Garry, PhD, a virologist at Tulane College in New Orleans, informed The Washington Submit this week that there is no such thing as a cause to suppose BA.2 will probably be any worse than the unique Omicron pressure.
So which skilled predictions will come nearer to BA.2’s potential? For now, it is only a watch-and-see state of affairs.
For up to date data, the web site outbreak.info tracks BA.2’s common every day and cumulative prevalence in the US and in different areas.
Additionally, if and when WHO specialists resolve to raise BA.2 to a variant of curiosity or a variant of concern, it will likely be famous on its coronavirus variant tracking website.