New mutations of the omicron variant of COVID-19 which have been reported in parts of Europe and Asia have now reportedly been detected in Washington state.
Though health officials don’t yet have much information on the new “subvariant,” it is being reported that BA.2 has shown some differences from the original omicron strain, according to Fox News.
A spokesperson for the Washington Department of Health told Fox News Digital on Monday that “Two cases of BA.2, a subvariant of omicron, were detected earlier this month in Washington.”
The World Health Organization noted that “the BA.2 descendent lineage, which differs from BA.1 in some of the mutations, including in the spike protein, is increasing in many countries. Investigations into the characteristics of BA.2, including immune escape properties and virulence, should be prioritized independently (and comparatively) to BA.1.”
Viruses “continuously evolve as changes in the genetic code (genetic mutations) occur during replication of the genome,” according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “Mutations happen frequently, but only sometimes change the characteristics of the virus.”
Fox News reported:
Omicron, which was first detected in South Africa in late November, has rapidly spread throughout the world and is now responsible for 99.5% of all new cases in the United States, according to CDC data.
While studies show that the new variant can more easily evade immunity offered by vaccines and prior infection, it is also associated with less severe disease.
Health officials in the United Kingdom called BA.2 a “variant under investigation” last week, explaining that “there is still uncertainty around the significance of the changes to the viral genome.”
Houston Methodist Hospital confirmed two cases of the sub-variant which one doctor referred to as the “stealth omicron.”
“It has most of the changes that make the omicron virus with some changes in the spike protein,” Dr. Hana El Sahly, a professor of virology and microbiology at the College of Medicine, said, according to WOAI.
“Given that we have known the stealth omicron since we first identified omicron, it is likely that it is not behaving differently,” she said, explaining that the new sub-variant may be harder to detect in PCR tests.
According to the Texas Department of State Health Services, 90 percent of new COVID cases in Texas were the omicron variant before 2022 began.
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