Omicron: Another 'more infectious variant will come' says doctor
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A new sub-strain of Omicron officially called “BA.2” but nicknamed “stealth Omicron,” has emerged in the UK and is spreading fast. According to the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA), the BA.2 Covid strain is thought to be an Omicron (BA.1) sub-strain which has the potential to spread much faster than its predecessor. Here are the key symptoms to watch out for.
The UKHSA said on January 28 that the new BA.2 variant has a 30 percent transmissibility advantage over its predecessor BA.1 based on its early findings.
UKHSA has listed BA.2 as a “variant under investigation”, which is one level below a “variant of concern.”
BA.1 is the Omicron variant which currently accounts for 98 percent of all global cases and it is the dominant strain in the UK.
But the BA.2 variant is spreading fast – it has even become the dominant strain in Denmark.
BA.2 has been identified in more than 40 countries including India, parts of Europe, South Africa, Australia and the US.
At least 420 cases have been reported in the UK since November the Mirror reports.
What are the symptoms of BA.2?
Current guidance from NHS England is that the main symptoms of Covid continue to be a high temperature, a new continuous cough, a loss or change to your sense of smell or taste.
Symptoms specific to the Omicron variant have yet to be established but these might be identified over time.
As BA.2 is a sub-strain of the original BA.1 Omicron variant its symptoms will probably mirror its predecessor’s.
The latest guidance from the ZOE Covid Study and the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is that the following ten symptoms can typically point towards Covid:
- Runny or congested nose
- Feeling fatigued
- New, continuous cough
- Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
- Muscle or body aches
- New loss of a sense of taste or smell
- Sore throat
- Nausea or vomiting
They advise that if you develop one or more of these symptoms you should take a Covid test as soon as possible.
You should then isolate for five days if your Covid test comes back positive.
How dangerous is BA.2
So far, scientists do not appear to be overly concerned about this new sub-variant.
Anders Fomsgaard, chief physician and virus researcher at the Statens Serum Institut (SSI) in Denmark, (where BA.2 is the dominant strain), hasn’t found this new variant to be any more dangerous than its predecessor.
He told Danish reporters: “We cannot see any difference in hospitalisation numbers, death rates with BA.2, so it is not something that worries us yet.”
He added: “Right now we should just treat it as yet another variant until new data should eventually show other results.”
But Dr Meera Chand, the UKHSA’s Covid incident director, has said there isn’t enough evidence to be certain if BA.2 is more or less dangerous than BA.1.
She said: “So far there is insufficient evidence to determine whether BA.2 causes more severe illness than BA.1, but data is limited and UKHSA continues to investigate.”
She added more data will allow UKHSA to draw more accurate conclusions within a week or two.
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