The new BA.2 omicron subvariant is already circulating in half of U.S. states
Pierre Coulon (Doctor of Philosophy) examines microscopy images of immunized mice in Irvine on Wednesday 3 February 2021.
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Nearly half the U.S. has already been affected by a Covid subvariant. It’s more infectious than the highly transmissible Omicron variant.
According to the global Covid variants database, nearly half of U.S. States have confirmed that BA.2 is present. According to Friday’s statement by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), BA.2 levels are currently low in the U.S., despite its increasing proportion in comparison with other countries.
According to Statens Serum Institut (which conducts surveillance on infectious diseases in Denmark), the subvariant is 1.5x more transmissible that the original omicron strain.
According to the U.K. Health Security Agency, the new sublineage does not appear to reduce vaccine effectiveness against symptoms of infection.
Kristen Nordlund, spokesperson for the CDC said that there was no evidence to suggest the BA.2 is any more severe than the BA.1 lines.
Troels Lillebaek (chairman of the Scandinavian nation’s committee responsible for monitoring Covid variants) said that BA.2 had overtaken the original Omicron in Denmark.
BA.1 and BA.2 differ in many areas of their mutations. Actually, BA.1 is different from BA.2 than it was between the Alpha variation and the wild strain. This Alpha variant was the first significant mutation to be recognized in the genome.
Lillebaek said that BA.2 has five mutations at a critical part of the spike protein virus uses to attach and invade human cells. This part of spike is known as receptor binding domain and can lead to higher transmissibility.
On Friday, the U.K. Health Security Agency stated that BA.2 had a significant growth advantage over its predecessor. According to the agency the sister variant spread quicker than the original micron in every region in England where enough cases were available to perform an analysis.
An initial assessment showed that BA.2 didn’t seem to affect the effectiveness or safety of vaccines more than the original Omicron. The booster shot prevented symptoms of BA.2 from occurring two weeks later than the original omicron. It was 70% more effective than the original 63%.
BA.2 has not been classified as a variant threat by the World Health Organization. WHO officials warn that more variants could develop as omicron travels to new parts of the world at an unimaginable rate. Maria Van Kerkhove is the technical leader for Covid-19 at WHO. warned on TuesdayThe next Covid variant will likely be easier to transmit.
Van Kerkhove explained that “the next variant of interest will be fitter, and we mean it will be transmissible since it will have overtaken what is currently being circulated.” The big question here is whether future variants are more severe or less.
Lillebaek stated that there are not sufficient data to know if BA.2 can reinfect those who have already been infected by the original micron. But prior infections would probably provide some cross-infection immunity to BA.2
Pfizer ModernaThis week, clinical trials began on the omicron-specific shots. There is growing concern about new varieties emerging as immunity to these vaccines wanes.
According to Denmark’s health ministry, new Covid cases have been increasing. More than 50,000 infections were reported in Denmark on Friday. This country has 5.8 million inhabitants. Lillebaek indicated that the current increase in infections in Denmark can be attributed to BA.2.
For a total 967 Covid-positive patients, new hospital admissions to Denmark increased by 12, Lillebaek stated that this is within the limitations of the health system’s ability to manage. He noted, however that almost all Danes have been fully vaccinated. 60% of them also received booster shots.
According to him, “If your country or community has a low level of vaccinations you will be required to have higher admissions and to ICU for more severe cases.”
The CDC data shows that 67% of eligible Americans have been fully vaccinated.