Stealth Omicron or BA.2 subvariant of the highly contagious Omicron coronavirus strain, which some studies indicate could be even more infectious than the original version, has been detected in 57 countries.
The WHO, in its recent weekly epidemiological update, explained that Omicron, accounting for over 93 per cent of all coronavirus specimens collected in the past month, counts several sub-lineages: BA.1, BA.1.1, BA.2, and BA.3.
What is Stealth Omicron?
Stealth Omicron or BA.2 is a sub-lineage of the highly infectious Omicron variant, with possibly more mutations than its parent strain. It is currently a ‘variant under investigation’. The UK Health Service Agency (UKHSA) said that it is one level below the status of ‘variant of concern’ given by the World Health Organization (WHO).
While England has reported around 400 cases of stealth Omicron, Denmark has been listed as the most affected country with about 79% of the cases detected so far. India is also one of the countries impacted by the sub-strain.
BA.2- designated sequences have been submitted to GISAID from 57 countries to date,” WHO said, adding that in some countries, the sub-variant now accounted for over half of all Omicron sequences gathered.
It is said little was known yet about the differences between the sub-variants but several studies have suggested that BA.2, also known as the “stealth variant”, was more infectious than the original sub-lineage.
which has rapidly become the dominant variant worldwide in only 10 weeks from when it was first detected in southern Africa.
Currently, there is no scientific evidence to tell if the new sub-variant is different from the Omicron, in terms of symptoms.
It’s believed that stealth Omicron also causes mild symptoms.
As far as the original Omicron variant is concerned, here are the most common symptoms reported so far –
• Runny nose
• Scratchy throat
• Body pain
• Night sweats
• Loss of appetite
How is it different from the original Omicron variant? What makes it concerning?
Experts have come to the fore and said that the stealth Omicron lacks a mutation, which is integral to the detecting process. It is what made the original strain to be detected in the COVID PCR tests.
As is known, an RT-PCR test identifies the spike gene, which is the protein that tells us whether it is the variant of the COVID-19 or not. According to the U.K. Health Security Agency, COVID’s Omicron variant contains a a genetic deletion in the “S” spike gene that helps healthcare providers to easily detect it. However, in the stealth Omicron, there is no S gene drop out, making it difficult to track and to to confirm if it is BA.2 or some other variant.
Do we need to worry?
While COVID variants are highly unpredictable, early findings in Denmark suggest that stealth Omicron does not pose any serious threat to life. It does not cause severe symptoms nor does it increase the risk of hospitalization or death.
Steps to be taken –
However, regardless of the strain, Covid-19 remained a dangerous disease and people should strive to avoid catching it.
Currently, while getting your vaccines and booster shots should be prioritized, wearing your masks, maintaining social distance and following proper hand hygiene is crucial.
We need people to be aware that this virus is continuing to circulate and that it is continuing to evolve, “It’s really important that we take measures to reduce our exposure to this virus, whichever variant is circulating.”
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