Various health officials and scientists from around the globe are monitoring a new omicron variant which has been located in at least 40 different nations, including the U.S.
The new version of COVID, which scientists are referring to as BA.2, is widely believed to be a stealthier version than the first omicron variant, as well as potentially more contagious.
However, scientists also stress that their information on the new “stealth” variant is limited. For instance, it is unclear whether or not the stealthy variant evades vaccines or causes severe sickness.
At least 15,000 genetic sequences of the new variant have been uploaded to GISAID from over 36 countries. GISAID, which is a global platform for sharing COVID data, reveals that 96 of the sequenced cases reported originated from the United States.
According to Dr. Wesley Long, who works as a pathologist in Texas, the “stealth” variant has not yet “[started] to gain ground” across the United States.
Instead, this particular variant appears far more prevalent across Europe and Asia. In the nation of Denmark, the Danish Ministry of Health reports that 45 percent of all COVID cases were attributed to the stealthy omicron variant.
Initial analysis conducted by scientists in Denmark reveal no significant differences between hospitalizations for BA.2 relative to the original omicron variant. The researchers continue to focus on the variant’s relative infectiousness, as well as how effective the vaccine is for preventing its transmission.
The “stealth” variant has numerous mutations, with approximately 20 in the spike proteins shared with the original omicron variant. Nonetheless, additional changes are present that are not seen in the original variant.
At this point in time, it remains unclear how significant the mutations may be, though the stealth variant has become a fairly significant “variant of concern” per the World Health Organization. Additionally, the United Kingdom Health Security Agency has classified the new variant as “a variant under investigation,” due to rising cases in the UK and abroad.
Concerns persist that the new variant may begin spreading exponentially across a particular region, which is why the World Health Organization urges the investigation of the variant to be “prioritized.”
Medical advice for the new variant remains the same as previous advice, which includes staying home and self-quarantining if testing positive for COVID. Vaccines remain highly recommended for reducing the likelihood of experiencing severe illness.