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COVID-19: New 'Stealth Omicron' Strain Identified In New York

The "stealth" Omicron variant has been confirmed in Connecticut.
The "stealth" Omicron variant has been confirmed in Connecticut. Photo Credit: Pixabay/MatthewWaffleHouse

The newly emerging “stealth” Omicron variant of the COVID-19 virus has been confirmed throughout the region, according to an associate professor at the Yale School of Public Health.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), Omicron, which is known as B.1.1.529, has three sub-variants: the original BA.1 that remains the dominant strain, the “stealth” BA.2, which is picking up steam, and the more elusive BA.3.

Recently, the new “stealth” variant - named for its difficulty to identify due to a lack of certain genetic characteristics - has been becoming more of a concern, and it most recently made its way into Connecticut in Fairfield County.

To date, there have been approximately 100 BA.2 cases sequenced across the country, including at least 10 from Massachusetts and four in New York, making it likely that it would spread to neighboring Connecticut.

“We detected the first BA.2 Omicron case in Connecticut,” professor Nathan Grubaugh posted to Twitter this. “(The) sample (was) collected on (Saturday), Jan. 8 from Fairfield County.”

Officials noted that just because the variant was first detected in one area of the state, it doesn’t preclude it from having spread to other parts of the state.

Grubaugh cautioned that BA.2 is more transmissible than BA.1, and that in approximately a month it became the dominant strain in Denmark, which has been among the hardest hit by the variant early on.

However, the professor said that immunity from BA.1 “should” protect against BA.2, which “probably” won’t be any worse for vaccines, though the data is still pending.

“BA.2 is not yet a significant proportion of the cases in (the region). But considering its first detection from a sample collected on Jan. 8, that could be changing soon,” Grubaugh explained.

“I want to note that I do not think that BA.2 will lead to a significant resurgence of COVID-19 cases. While it’s more transmissible than BA.1, there is a lot of recent population immunity from the BA.1 wave, and hopefully not as many susceptible people to infect.” 

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