New York Daily News: MANHATTAN, By Theresa Braine – A new variant of omicron is making the rounds, but indications are that in the U.S. at least, it’s not spreading very far.
Health experts have been telling us there will be more iterations of the novel coronavirus and its variants, and now one of them, omicron BA.2 (as opposed to omicron BA.1, the original version), is delivering. But slight variability seems to be all that it is delivering, medical experts told the Daily News on Tuesday.
This recently detected strain of the already highly transmissible omicron variant could itself be more contagious than its predecessor, health experts say. New research out of Japan this week suggests that it could also cause more severe disease, but that study has yet to be peer-reviewed.
But other factors affect how that transmissibility plays out in the world. For instance, people who have recovered from the first version of omicron are probably largely protected from BA.2, Dr Jeremy Kamil, an associate professor of microbiology and immunology at Louisiana State University (LSU) Health Shreveport, where he leads COVID-19 sequencing, told the Daily News. Moreover, he said, the variant’s trajectory in places like Denmark, where it took over quickly as the dominant strain, does not seem to be happening here.
“The thing that’s so important to stress is that people who have recently recovered from BA.1, in most cases they are not going to be infected by BA.2,” Kamil said. “The panic greatly exceeds the social media hype on this one. In places like the United States, where BA.1 had a huge head start, it ate BA.2′s lunch. So BA.2 is having to eat the crumbs.”
That holds true for the New York region, where cases are plummeting and hospitalizations are way down, Dr. Peter Silver, chief quality officer and associate chief medical officer at Northwell Health, told The News. Elsewhere in the country, where the vaccination rate might be lower, the caseload is still high.
“I think there are still parts of the country, though that are still experiencing high rates of COVID, and we have to be conscious about that,” Silver told The News on Tuesday.
A new variant was not unexpected, given that the more people who are infected, the more chance there is for the virus to mutate. But it does raise the question of what the impact will be on the ebbing of the pandemic, and whether it means another, perhaps more deadly, wave is in the offing. But that does not appear likely, Silver said.
“In terms of severity of illness, transmissibility, it’s very, very similar,” Silver said, comparing omicron BA.2 to the original omicron. “I think what we’re waiting to see though, is if it’s causing a little bump in the incidence of COVID.”
Top Feature Photo: Medical staffers during the COVID pandemic – Karen Ducey/Getty Images