What is the Omicron BA.2 Variant?

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Though COVID-19 case numbers seem to be falling, current evidence suggests that the extremely contagious Omicron variant can reinfect people multiple times, which increases the risk that it poses. Because of this, researchers are closely monitoring new Omicron sub-variants, and one that has been in the news often recently is the BA.2 variant. Read on below for the latest information about it.

The stealth variant

The Omicron BA.2 variant is one of the four sub-variants, or “lineages” of omicron that we currently know about. This variant has been nicknamed “stealth omicron” as its mutation makes it difficult for PCR COVID-19 tests to identify it as Omicron.

So if it’s hard to even diagnose BA.2 Omicron from the original strain of Omicron, why does it even matter? It’s pretty simple. An evolution of COVID-19 that spreads faster and is taking over the case numbers has the potential to undermine the vaccine and natural immunity from prior infection. While it doesn’t currently seem to be an incredibly dangerous strain, further evolution of something like BA.2 into a variant that makes COVID-19 more deadly could bring us back to square one with the pandemic.

More contagious

Research has suggested that the BA.2 variant may be more contagious than the more common BA.1 variant, and at least in the UK, it’s estimated to account for roughly a third of all sequenced COVID-19 cases. The numbers are much lower in the US, with current estimates counting BA.2 as 2% of all sequenced COVID-19 cases in the country.

The BA.2 lineage of Omicron has now been detected in 57 countries and seems to be continuing to spread rapidly. In some places such as South Africa and Denmark, BA.2 has taken over as the most common form of sequenced COVID-19 cases.

New symptoms

According to the newest information, the BA.2 variant causes different symptoms than the previous variants of Omicron. While it comes with many of the symptoms of the original Omicron variant, many have reported high levels of fatigue and dizziness when infected with BA.2. Hopefully, the increased symptoms will stop there and we won’t see further mutation of Omicron to a more dangerous strain.

What other Omicron variants are there?

As stated earlier, there are currently four Omicron lineages, known as BA.1, BA.2, BA.3, and B.1.1.529. The original, and most common form of Omicron was the BA.1 lineage. The other  two variants don’t seem to be incredibly concerning as of yet, but only time will tell what the real threat level is.

It’s too early to know exactly what the BA.2 variant will mean for this pandemic, but the fact that the virus continues to evolve and infect people lets scientists know that it’s important to keep taking reasonable precautions for protection. Most states have lifted their mask mandates and people are getting back to work, but it’s still wise to be cautious.

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