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Sibling strain

Fast facts about the COVID-19 BA.2 subvariant.

Article Author: Johnny Woodhouse

Article Date:

photo for Sibling strain article

Since the pandemic began, the virus that causes COVID-19 has changed several times, resulting in different strains or variants. Delta was the dominant strain in 2021. Omicron took the baton in 2022. Now, a new – and more contagious – omicron subvariant, BA.2, has sprinted to the lead.

Shalika Katugaha, MD, system director of Infectious Diseases for Baptist Health, explained what we know so far.

How prevalent is BA.2 in the United States?

At the beginning of February 2022, the highly transmissible BA.2 subvariant accounted for just 1% of COVID-19 cases in the U.S. As of April 2, 2022, it was the dominant strain in the country, accounting for more than 72% of cases, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Protection (CDC). BA.2 spreads 75% faster than the earlier version of omicron.

Are vaccinated individuals or those who have had an omicron infection protected?

While BA.2 spreads faster, it doesn’t make people sicker than the original omicron strain. Health officials so far have not had to reintroduce COVID-19 restrictions in response to the subvariant.

COVID-19 vaccines protect against severe illness, hospitalizations and deaths, so vaccinated individuals and those who experienced infection with the original omicron variant have some degree of protection,” Dr. Katugaha said.

What about those who had delta or the original alpha or beta strains?

“Infection with the alpha, beta and delta variants does confer some protection against omicron and BA.2, but reinfection or breakthroughs can occur, especially if a significant amount of time has passed since the initial illness,” Dr. Katugaha said.

What does BA.2 mean for the upcoming summer months?

“Cases may rise in the coming weeks but this doesn’t necessarily mean another surge,” Dr. Katugaha said. “Severe disease or deaths associated with BA.2 are unlikely to increase. Vaccines and immunity from the winter omicron wave should protect against a spring or summer surge.”

What is the best way to prevent another surge in cases?

According to Dr. Katugaha, the most effective and easiest way to prevent another surge of COVID-19 cases is for people to continue to get vaccinated and boosted.

At Baptist Health, we want to help keep our community informed about COVID-19. For more information about COVID-19 vaccines, visit baptistjax.com/covid19vaccine. Click here to find a vaccination location near you.

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