Omicron BA.2: What to know about the new COVID-19 subvariant

Virus animation (FILE)
Virus animation (FILE)(KEYC News Now)
Published: Feb. 5, 2022 at 5:05 PM CST
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ROCHESTER, Minn. (KEYC) - The omicron variant accounts for almost all COVID-19 cases across the globe, but now a new subvariant called omicron BA.2 is on the rise.

“In the U.S., we have identified cases in about half of the states, but it’s about 1% or less of all of the COVID cases occurring. Now take another country like Denmark, where they had very high immunization rates. About 40% to 50% of their cases are this new BA.2 sublineage, so it’s quite variable at this early juncture,” stated Dr. Gregory Poland, director of Mayo Clinic’s Vaccine Research Group.

BA.2 is a different version of the original omicron variant, but it does not seem to cause more severe illness.

Dr. Poland added, “There does not seem to be evidence that it may be more virulent. That is, it does not cause any worse disease than the original omicron strain. That’s a good thing.”

What sets BA.2 apart is its transmissibility, which appears to be higher than other COVID-19 variants.

“The best estimates are that it’s about 1½ times more infectious or transmissible than omicron was. And, remember, omicron was quite a bit more transmissible than delta, which was more transmissible than alpha,” Dr. Poland explained.

Mayo said BA.2 does not seem to reduce the effectiveness of COVID-19 precautions, including vaccinations.

Dr. Poland stated, “This is going to continue to happen and infect every unvaccinated person until people are vaccinated and until they’re wearing a mask. You can choose to ignore these facts ― these clear data ― but the virus could care less what we think. The virus is going to find people who do not have protective immunity and infect them.”

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