The BA.2 variant of COVID-19, also known as the “stealth omicron”, has become the dominant variant of the coronavirus worldwide The World Health Organization announced on Wednesday. The Omicron subvariant now accounts for 75% of coronavirus cases worldwide.
“This is the most transmissible variant of the SARS-CoV-2 virus that we have seen so far,” said Dr. Maria Van Kerkhove, WHO COVID-19 Chief.
The BA.2 variant has caused rapid increases in COVID-19 cases in several countries around the world, including China, Australia and much of Europe, in recent weeks.
“These increases come despite reductions in testing in some countries, meaning the cases we’re seeing are just the tip of the iceberg,” said WHO Director-General Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus.
Will the United States see a surge in COVID-19 from omicron’s BA.2 variant?
BA.2 has yet to become dominant in the US. It currently makes about 23% of COVID-19 cases nationwideaccording to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The fact that we saw such a large spike in BA.1, the other Omicron subvariant, just a few months ago could protect us from another massive surge, experts say. A current model valued 73% of Americans were immune to the Omicron variant because so many were suspended between December and February.
However, that would mean that about 27% of Americans are not immune — nearly 90 million people.
Those who have not received a COVID booster shot and those over 65 are particularly at risk.
“This group is the most problematic when it comes to the serious, critical and fatal illness. That doesn’t mean younger people don’t end up in the hospital sometimes; it’s just not at the same pace,” said Jeffrey Shaman of Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health CNN.
Pfizer is seeking approval to offer seniors a fourth dose of its vaccine to increase their protection.
Meanwhile, the CDC advises everyone to stay put up to date on their COVID vaccine. Whether you are “up to date” or not depends on your age, medical condition, the type of COVID vaccine you received and how long it has been since your last dose.
As long as the virus continues to circulate, it will continue continue to produce new variants — some of which could prove to be more infectious, immune-evading, or deadly.
“The virus will pick up vulnerabilities and survive in those vulnerabilities for months until another vulnerability opens up,” said Dr. Michael Ryan, an Executive Director of the WHO. “This is how viruses work. They establish themselves within one community and quickly move on to the next community when it is vulnerable.”
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