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Highly contagious BA.2 Covid omicron variant spreading across the U.S.

A new COVID Omicron variant, ca;lled BA.2 is spreading across the Northeast and Western parts of the U.S.

World passes 300 million Covid cases as Omicron breaks records
Omicron's dizzying spread has prompted many nations to push harder for more vaccinations - Copyright POOL/AFP Andrew Harnik
Omicron's dizzying spread has prompted many nations to push harder for more vaccinations - Copyright POOL/AFP Andrew Harnik

U.S. health experts are warning an emerging, highly contagious Covid omicron variant, called BA.2, could soon lead to another uptick in domestic coronavirus cases.

According to CNBC News, White House chief medical advisor Dr. Anthony Fauci said BA.2 is about 50 to 60 percent more transmissible than Omicron, but it does not appear to be more severe. 

However, Dr. Fauci, along with other health officials continues to stress coronavirus vaccines and boosters remain the best ways to prevent serious illness from the virus.

“It does have increased transmission capability,” Fauci said Sunday on ABC’s “This Week.” “However, when you look at the cases, they do not appear to be any more severe and they do not appear to evade immune responses either from vaccines or prior infections.”

How is the BA.2 variant different from Omicron?

The BA.2 variant is considered by the World Health Organization (WHO) as a “sublineage” of the highly transmissible Omicron variant. BA.2 is also known as “stealth Omicron,” a more transmissible version of the Omicron variant.

BA.2 has several key mutations, with the most important of those occurring in the spike protein that studs the outside of the virus. Those mutations are shared with the original Omicron, BA.1, but BA.2 also has additional genetic changes not seen in the initial version.

Those additional genetic changes made it difficult to identify with regular COVID-19 tests routinely used around the country. However, BA.2 has not yet been declared a variant of concern on its own.

“BA.2 is part of Omicron,” Dr. Isaac Ghinai, medical director for lab-based surveillance at the Chicago Department of Public Health, said Thursday. “Omicron is a variant of concern, therefore BA.2 is a variant of concern. Same as BA.1 is a variant of concern.”

As most of us know, the BA.2 variant has been spreading around the world for the past several weeks, with cases in Europe seeing a spike as well as in China. In the U.S., BA.2 accounted for about a quarter (23.1 perc3nt) of the cases for the week ending March 12, the CDC says. That’s up from 14.2 percent the week ending March 5.

Does BA.2 spread faster? Is it more lethal?

Studies have shown that BA.2 is “inherently more transmissible” than Omicron BA.1, according to the World Health Organization.

What’s not yet known is if BA.2 causes severe illness as did Omicron BA.1, which prompted a rapid surge in cases, hospitalizations, and deaths for a month before plummeting just as quickly.

But, preliminary data indicate vaccinations and boosters are similarly effective in preventing symptomatic cases of BA.1, the original Omicron variant, and BA.2.

White House COVID-19 Response Coordinator Dr. Ashish Jha, said he’s watching what happens in the next couple of weeks in the U.S.

“I’m not expecting a big surge here, but we’re gonna have to pay close attention and really be driven by data as we have throughout the whole pandemic,” Jha said last week.

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We are deeply saddened to announce the passing of our dear friend Karen Graham, who served as Editor-at-Large at Digital Journal. She was 78 years old. Karen's view of what is happening in our world was colored by her love of history and how the past influences events taking place today. Her belief in humankind's part in the care of the planet and our environment has led her to focus on the need for action in dealing with climate change. It was said by Geoffrey C. Ward, "Journalism is merely history's first draft." Everyone who writes about what is happening today is indeed, writing a small part of our history.

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