By Javan Flowers
The World Health Organization (WHO), in an update posted to its website earlier this week, sounded the alarm over rising cases of a new Omicron sub-variant dubbed “BA.2”.
The new sub-variant is a descendant of Omicron, the now dominant and highly contagious variant of COVID-19. Unlike Omicron, BA.2 is currently not considered a "variant of concern.” However, because of it spreading in many countries, the WHO is asking governments and scientists across the globe to monitor the situation and study the new sub-variant, as many have already been doing.
According to the WHO, BA.2 has already been detected in at least 40 countries, including the United States.
Following reports from the United Kingdom Health Security Agency, which has detected more than 400 cases in England, scientists have given it the nickname ‘stealth variant’, because it is more difficult to detect than BA.1 and does not share the genetic deletion on the spike protein that has been used to monitor the spread of Omicron and distinguish it from Delta.
Epidemiologist Tobias Kurth of the Charite Hospital in Berlin told German broadcaster Deutsche Welle that the virus is not likely to be sufficiently different from Omicron to threaten the effectiveness of vaccines. “It’s really up to us to get vaccinated to stop the spread of the virus on the global level,” said Kurth.