What We Know about Omicron and the BA.2 Subvariant

If you think you got rid of COVID-19 entirely, you may get disheartened as the cases of COVID-19 with a new BA.2 variant can be seen to spread. The virus has moved at a rapid pace in the past several months. Last fall, not long after the Delta variant, it moved past its peak, and people started to prepare for Thanksgiving, but around that time, as we are all aware, Omicron spread like wildfire.

However, the good news was that the new variant caused less severe illness and death compared to the Delta. But one thing about this variant was that it was highly transmissible and more contagious than any variant that came before it.

What we know about COVID-19 new variant

Experts have turned their focus from Omicron (or BA.1) to Omicron BA.2, a genetically distinct subvariant for the former. It has soon become the predominant variant in the US. By April, the variant started to branch out from BA.2. These have included BA.4 and BA.5, which are not multiplying in the US. However, another subvariant, BA.2.12.1, already accounts for 20% of the new cases.

Scientists are still investigating whether the newest variants are more dangerous or contagious than their predecessors. The good news is that, so far, BA.2.12.1 does not appear to cause severe death and illness.

If you track these variants, it may become confusing, sometimes even overwhelming.

Is Omicron more transmissible – or deadlier – than previous variants?

From the start, scientists had two essential questions about the Omicron variant. The first is the transmission ability of the new variant, compared to the Delta and previous variants like Beta and Alpha, and the original virus.

According to the CDC, the Omicron variant spreads more quickly than the original SARS-CoV-2 virus and the Delta variant. In addition, BA.2 spreads even faster than BA.1.

Omicron has a recorded high number of cases. It has also caused its share of deaths and hospitalizations, but one thing to note here is that factors like deaths, ICU admittance, and lengths of hospital stays have been lower during the previous pandemic peaks.

The CDC says the presence or severity of symptoms may be affected by the vaccination, history of prior infection, age, and other health conditions.

Do current treatments and vaccines protect against severe disease from Omicron?

The third and most crucial question is how protective the existing covid vaccines will be against the new variant. Studies have shown that the fully vaccinated people who have gotten boosters have shown protection against hospitalization from BA.1 and BA.2.

What you can do to protect yourself from Omicron

People need to understand that variants like BA.2 and Omicron are a natural part of the virus progression. So the fact that there is a new variant is not surprising. Delta would never be the last variant, and Omicron won’t be the last one either. So as long as there is a COVID-19 outbreak somewhere in the world, something new will emerge.

The best way to prevent new variants is to get vaccinated and get a booster shot. If more people are fully vaccinated, it decreases the opportunity for the virus to mutate and spread. Recommendations for boosters’ doses keep on changing, and you can find the updated information on the CDC website.

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