A new subvariant of Omicron has appeared, becoming the dominant strain in different countries. Here’s what you should know about it.
A subvariant of the Omicron COVID-19 variant, known as stealth Omicron, has recently appeared. Officially known as BA.2, the variant has popped up in several countries, including the United States. How dangerous is the new variant and how worried should you be?
In Denmark, the new variant quickly became the dominant strain, suggesting stealth Omicron has a higher rate of spread than the original. Despite this, scientists stress that there’s no reason to panic; it appears that the new variant is not more dangerous than standard Omicron and that current vaccinations should provide sufficient protection.
Here’s what you should know about steal Omicron:
Could it become the dominant strain in the US?
CNN spoke with Dr. Leana Wen, who explained that, since the subvariant is more transferable, it could become the dominant strain in the country, as it’s happened in other places. “The best-case scenario is that we have enough people protected here in the US due to vaccination and recent infection that BA.2 does not cause a substantial rise in cases. We could continue on the track to experiencing a lull in case numbers over the spring and summer. Another scenario is that BA.2 blunts the sharp drop in cases that we are seeing, and we end up having a more prolonged fourth wave than we would have with BA.1 alone,” she explained.
Where does the name come from?
While catchy, the nickname “stealth Omicron” isn’t all that accurate. Prevention explains that the original version of Omicron, known as BA.1, is missing one of three target genes generally tested in PCR tests. When testing Omicron cases, doctors are able to spot these cases in PCR tests since there’s an absence of that target gene. BA.2 doesn’t have this mutation, allowing for the stealth nickname to catch on.
How do you protect yourself against it?
Not much has changed with the appearance of the new variant. Reliable preventative measures like being fully vaccinated and wearing a mask in indoor spaces remain the most efficient ways of protecting yourself against the virus. “I would also predict that there would be significant protection with BA.2 if you had BA.1.,” explains Dr. Thomas Russo, professor and chief of infectious disease at the University at Buffalo in New York. “I don’t see this moving the dial significantly in terms of posing a new, huge problem.”