What We Know Now About the Omicron BA.2 Variant

A researcher works with samples of COVID-19
Liu Xiao/Xinhua via Getty Images
  • A new subvariant of the Omicron coronavirus strain has been detected.
  • Dubbed the “stealth” variant, it has mutations that make it different from the original Omicron variant.
  • Experts say that, currently, there are no signs that it’s very different from the original Omicron strain.

The BA.2 Omicron sub-variant, also known as the “stealth” sub-variant, has been detected in 83 countries around the world, according to data from GISAID, with new surges happening in Denmark.

Infectious disease experts are keeping an eye on this even more contagious version of the Omicron variant, reported to be 30 percent more contagious, as it now represents nearly 4 percent of new infections in the United States.

While it may be even more infectious than the original omicron variant, there’s no evidence so far that it’s likely to overstep vaccine protection.

Experts say it’s important to monitor the subvariant. But so far, there are no signs that it’s more dangerous or infectious than the original Omicron.

Still, the introduction of any subvariant is worrying for a global population who’s experiencing COVID fatigue, as well as emotional and mental exhaustion.

When it comes to tackling the new Omicron subvariant, here is what we know right now.

What is the new Omicron subvariant?

The new version of the variant is known as BA.2, while the original Omicron is BA.1. According to the World Health Organization (WHO)Trusted Source, the BA.2 subvariant differs from BA.1 in some of the mutations, including the spike protein.

Some experts are calling the new subvariant the “stealth Omicron” because while it registers as positive on a PCR test, it isn’t immediately discernible as the Omicron variant.

“Omicron and other COVID viruses can mutate when they infect new persons and multiply abundantly,” said Dr. William Schaffner, professor of preventive medicine, department of health policy, and professor of medicine, division of infectious diseases, Vanderbilt University Medical Center.

“The majority of such mutations, or genetic changes, are harmless and have no impact. By statistical chance, a mutation, or a series of mutations, can occur that can alter one or more of the basic characteristics of the virus,” he said.

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