A novel strain of the SARS-CoV-2 virus, known as stealth omicron, is stoking fears of a new wave of COVID-19 infections in the US and internationally. The stealth Omicron subvariant BA.2 does not show up on PCR tests the same way the original Omicron variant does, requiring additional analysis to diagnose.
Harvard infectious disease experts believe it’s likely the BA.2 subvariant “will continue to gain ground and possibly even replace the current virus population, though that remains to be determined,” according to an article by New York Magazine.
Here’s the latest on the BA.2 stealth Omicron subvariant:
- According to the American Medical Association, BA.2 accounts for an estimated 8% of current US cases.
- The World Health Organization reports BA.2 accounted for 21.5% of all new Omicron cases analyzed worldwide in the first week of February, with Omicron representing 98.3% of variants identified globally in the previous 30 days, according to a Deadline article.
- The BA.2 subvariant is 1.5 times more transmissible than the original omicron strain (BA.1), according to a report by CNBC.
- BA.2 may have features that make it as capable of causing serious illness as older variants of Covid-19, including Delta, according to a CNN report.
- Like the Omicron BA.1 variant, BA.2 “largely escapes” the immunity created by vaccines, the same CNN report states.
According to the CDC’s Covid Data Tracker, in the last seven days there have been an additional 724,237 COVID-19 cases and 13,443 additional deaths in the United States, as of February 19, 2022.
Total cases are dropping however, with the 7-day moving average of daily new cases as of February 16, 2022 dropping 43% compared to the previous week (121,665 vs 213,625). The US also passed 78 million reported COVID-19 infections (78,060,327).
While California (91,096), Texas (64,540), Florida (39,060) and North Carolina (34,059) reported the largest number of cases in the last week, when factoring in the number of cases per 100,000 population, Maine (1,889.6 per 100k people), Idaho (633.7), Kentucky (532.3) and Alaska (516.2) had the highest per capita infection rates.
Hospitalizations are also decreasing, with the 7-day average of 9,523 from Feb 7 to Feb 13, down from 13,236 the week prior and down from the peak 7-day average of 21,622 documented Jan 9 to Jan 15, 2022.
COVID-19 mortality was highest in California (1,518 reported deaths), Texas (1,436), and Georgia (681), with Maine and Arkansas having the highest 7-day COVID-19 mortality rate per 100,000 people, 9.8 and 9.7 deaths, respectively.