A new Omicron variant is now being reported and already spread into 40 countries worldwide including India, Denmark, the United Kingdom, Sweden, Singapore, and many more.
The WHO previously reported that Omicron who is also known as B.1.1.529, has three subvariants: BA.1, BA.2, and BA.3. As of a few days before Christmas, BA.1 was responsible for more than 99% of the cases the organization sequenced.
This time, WHO says, BA.2 could be on the rise, competing with BA.1.
Dr. Sara Cody, the Santa Clara County Public Health Officer said during a virtual town hall meeting hosted by Congressman Ro Khanna, “Over 95% of the cases we see are omicron. We have just a handful, maybe a pair of cases that are the new subtype of omicron.”
In the U.S., 96 cases have been identified as the new omicron BA.2 variant, and scientists are monitoring it closely to determine whether it is any more infectious or deadly.
“It has a different pattern, but so far we don’t know how it behaves,” said Dr. Cody.
“It’s dangerous to assume that omicron will be the last variant or that we are in the end game,” said Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the World Health Organization Director-General.
As the nation confronts the COVID-19 spike from the original omicron variant, federal data show more than 1,000 U.S. hospitals have reported critical staffing shortages in the past few weeks.
According to the USA Today report:
Yes, a new variant of omicron is spreading on at least four continents. But, no, it shouldn’t be a cause for panic, Massachusetts scientists said Tuesday.
Unlike two years ago when everyone was first learning about COVID-19, there are now many tools to combat the disease, and, like its cousin, omicron BA.2 is expected to remain relatively mild.
“I don’t think it’s going to cause the degree of chaos and disruption, morbidity and mortality that BA.1 did,” said Dr. Jacob Lemieux, an infectious disease specialist at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston. “I’m cautiously optimistic that we’re going to continue to move to a better place and, hopefully, one where each new variant on the horizon isn’t news.”
It’s not clear yet whether BA.2 is pushing out the original omicron variant, now referred to as BA.1, he said.
In Denmark, for instance, the rise of BA.2 is coming as BA.1 falls, but they’re currently split about 50-50, so “it’s not clear which of these variants is driving the outbreak,” Lemieux said.
Meanwhile, in South Africa, where cases had fallen dramatically after a huge surge around Thanksgiving, BA.2 is now more prevalent than BA.1.
“What we don’t know and still have almost no information on is what impact this will have on case counts, on hospitalizations, on deaths,” he said.
Scientists still know very little about the transmissibility of BA.2 compared to BA.1, said Jeremy Luban, a professor of molecular medicine, biochemistry & molecular pharmacology at UMass Medical School.
It was also reported that there were reported cases in France that a new variant named IHU was detected it was said to have 46 mutations (more than Omicron).