What is Omicron sublineage BA.2, and how dangerous is it?
After several weeks of decline in global COVID-19 cases, Omicron and its subvariants emerged, particularly in the United Kingdom. Scientists identify three categories such as BA.1, BA.2, and BA.3. Among all the groups, researchers believe that BA.2 is one of the main reasons behind the rising COVID-19 cases.
Despite implementing health and safety measures to reduce virus transmission, the world is still not safe from the virus. Surges and reinfections are still inevitable. Accordingly, the NHS Test and Trace reports that more than 300,000 individuals tested positive for SARS-CoV-2 from March 3 to March 9, 2022, in England. While in the UK, cases and hospital admissions are constantly increasing.
What is Omicron BA.2?
The original Omicron Variant, also known as BA.1, has tremendously hit the United Kingdom since 2021. It triggers a massive wave of infection, placing health facilities under severe strain. However, in January 2022, experts discovered that a second omicron variant, BA.2, spread throughout many countries.
WHO considers BA.2 as a variant of concern and that it should still be identified as Omicron. According to their reports, BA.2 is genetically distinct from BA.1, with specific amino acid changes in the spike protein. While some mutations are identical to those found in the original Omicron, BA.2 contains additional genetic modifications not found in the initial variant.
The UK Health Security Agency has reported more than 1000 cases of BA.2 in England. Consequently, the agency warned the public of the virus' increasing growth rate compared to BA.1. Additionally, preliminary examinations found no evidence of BA.2 vaccination being less effective against symptomatic disease than BA.1.
Symptoms of BA.2
2. runny nose
7. Sore throat
Transmissibility of BA.2
While research is ongoing to determine the causes of its growth advantage, preliminary results suggest that BA.2 is fundamentally more transmissible than BA.1. Hence, it remains the most frequently observed Omicron sublineage.
The significant rise in the prevalence of BA.2 in several countries indicates that this variation is more contagious than BA.1. According to one study, BA.2 is up to 33% more transmissible than BA.1, and its proliferation could soon pose a severe threat to global health.
Similarly, a state-wide investigation comparing the transmission of the BA.1 and BA.2 genotypes in Danish households between late December and January 2022 indicated that the latter was more contagious. The study discovered that the secondary attack rate, which shows the likelihood of virus transmission to household members, was 39% for BA.2 and 29% for BA.1.
Furthermore, the study found that fully vaccinated and booster-vaccinated people were less likely to transmit or get an infection caused by subvariant when compared to unvaccinated individuals.
The severity of BA.2
According to a recent laboratory investigation, a BA.2 infection may produce more severe sickness than a BA.1 infection. It replicated significantly quicker than BA.1 in upper and lower respiratory tract cells cultures.
Moreover, subsequent hamster trials indicated that BA.2 had a greater capacity for replication and dissemination in the lungs than BA.1. These tests resulted in more lung damage and had a more detrimental effect on lung function.
Despite these findings, people's disease severity data indicates that the BA.2 mutation does not result in more severe illness than the BA.1 variant. However, the World Health Organization's (WHO) Trusted Source explained that the BA.2 variant might be equally capable of causing severe sickness in humans as the BA.1 variant.
The disparity between laboratory and clinical results could be explained by the animal model's incapacity to replicate all elements of COVID-19 in people.
Still, WHO continuously monitors the BA.2 lineage as a component of Omicron and recommends countries to remain attentive, monitor and report sequences, and conduct independent and comparative analyses of the various Omicron sublineages.
COVID-19 Testing for BA.2
The American Medical Association explains that BA.2 has been described as a "stealth" omicron because it contains genetic changes that make it more difficult to differentiate from the delta variant when using a PCR test. In contrast, experts argue that rapid and PCR tests can still detect BA.2, like other COVID-19 variants.
For some people using rapid at-home tests, getting a confirmatory COVID test is advisable, especially if a person received a false negative result. The CDC says that people should use some self-tests in a series to confirm that they are not a carrier of the virus.
What can you do to protect yourself from Omicron BA.2?
Seeing that COVID-19 is not going away anytime soon, we are now all attempting to determine the best method for living with the virus and how to adapt our actions in response to subsequent waves and varieties. Here are some ways to protect ourselves.
1. Get vaccinated and get a booster shot
During the most recent Omicron BA.1 wave, fully vaccinated individuals were significantly less likely to contract COVID-19 than unprotected individuals. Thus, they were unlikely to be hospitalized. This protection will be enhanced if people acquire their COVID-19 booster.
2. Masking and physical distancing are still important.
While some countries have lifted masking restrictions in regions with minimal community transmission of COVID-19, people must be prepared to resume masking and other precautions if the infection rate increases again. Likewise, avoid densely populated areas and indoor settings where masking is not possible, such as indoor dining in restaurants and bars.
3. Get yourself tested
With the increasing transmissibility rate of COVID-19, antigen tests and other COVID-19 tests are administered. These tests can significantly slow the disease's transmission and help with contact tracing. It's vital to test frontline workers in healthcare, education, and local grocery stores. If you plan to travel, it is essential to get COVID tests for travel and acquire a fit to fly certificate. Testing before large gatherings may also be prudent, especially if vulnerable people, such as the elderly and immunocompromised, are present.
Find your reliable testing provider
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