New COVID Variant Is On The Rise As Omicron Declines

By Jason Hall

January 24, 2022

A "COVID-19 Drive-Up Testing" Sign Sits in the Foreground While Two Female Nurses Wearing Gowns and Surgical Face Masks Talk to Patients in their Cars in a Drive-Up (Drive Through) COVID-19 (Coronavirus) Testing Line Outside a Medical Clinic/Hospital Outd
Photo: Getty Images

A sub-variant of the omicron strain is reportedly in at least 40 countries and pushing the previous strain aside as its surge has finally declined slightly.

The "stealth" omicron variant -- any many scientists have referred to it -- has been difficult to identify due to a lack of genetic characteristics used to initially identify the omicron variant, according to World Health Organization member Vipin M. Vashishtha.

Omicron, known as B.1.1.529, has three subvariants: BA. 1, BA. 2, and BA. 3, with BA. 1 responsible for more than 99% of the cases amid the variant's surge and now BA.2 possibly on the rise, having been reported in the United Kingdtom and Scandinavia.

The original BA.1 is considered to be very contagious, however, researchers believe the BA.2 could be even more contagious.

"BA.2 shares 32 mutations w/ BA.1, but it also has 28 unique mutations," Vashishtha tweeted. "Some diff in S1. E is the same, N & M are diff in 1 mutation between the two variants. And...quite a difference when we go to OFT1ab."

In Denmark, the BA.2 has already reportedly accounted for half of all omicron cases, according to health care officials, but its yet to be known whether it's as deadly as the original variant.

The country has yet to see a difference in the rate of hospitalizations or deaths since the "stealth" omicron cases were reported.

“Initial analysis shows no differences in hospitalizations for BA.2 compared to BA.1,” according to Denmark’s Statens Serum Institut, a government-run infectious disease research center via Boston 25 News.

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