Amidst the declining surge of Omicron in the US, scientists and researchers have detected another contagious version of the virus that can lethally put the nation back behind lockdown prisons. The ‘even-more-contagious’ version of the variant is known as the BA.2.
The BA.2 is a train of the highly contagious omicron variant that appears to spread even more easily—about 30% more easily. Since BA.2 quickly overtook the original omicron in South Africa and other countries and has even caused a second omicron surge in Denmark, researchers have been bracing for the same thing to happen in the U.S.
According to Nathan Grubaugh, an associate professor of epidemiology at the Yale School of Public Health, “A lot of us were assuming that it was going to quickly take off in the United States just like it was doing in Europe and become the new dominant variant.” However, BA.2 has slowly but steadily spread even as the omicron surge continued to dissipate. The fear is that spread may be on track to rapidly accelerate in the near future.
Moreover, BA.2 has now been found from coast to coast and accounts for an estimated 3.9% of all new infections nationally, according to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
It appears to be doubling fast. Samuel Scarpino, the manager director of pathogen surveillance at the Rockefeller Foundation, says, “If it doubles again to 8%, that means we’re into the exponential growth phase and we may be staring at another wave of COVID-19 coming in the U.S. And that’s, of course, the one we’re really worried about. We’re all on the edge of our seats.”
As per some experts, it is unlikely that BA.2 will trigger a massive new surge because so many people have immunity from prior infections and vaccination at this point. “The most likely thing that’s going to happen is that it might extend our tail, meaning it might slow down the decrease in cases. But it’s probably not going to lead to a new wave of cases,” adds Grubaugh.
Although BA.2 doesn’t appear to make people sicker than the original omicron, just slowing down the decline in new cases would translate to more serious illness and death. And according to recent research, one of the remaining antibody treatments for COVID-19 may be less effective against BA.2.