New ‘Stealth’ Variant Creeps into US

Lenna Kidd and Montana Farner

A new “stealth” Omicron variant of COVID-19 is making it’s way into the US.

The new variant has been detected in California, New Mexico, Texas, and Washington, according to The variant BA.2 is responsible for 8,000 cases between 40 countries.

Dr. Scott Gottlieb, Pfizer board member and former FDA commissioner spoke to CBS News on Sunday morning, January 30th.

The newest variant has made its way to the US according to the CDC, but Gottlieb says that it “doesn’t really change the narrative.”

He went on to say, “It maybe, perhaps extends the tail on the decline that we’re seeing across the country.”

The new variant is more 1.5 times more contagious than the omicron variant.

Gottlieb says, “There is data out the U.K. that suggests a fully vaccinated person may be more protected against this new variant than they were against the original strain of Omicron.”

If you were previously infected with Omicron, you should have protection against subsequent infection from this new variant, Gottlieb said.

According to the CDC, covid cases have declined 19.9% over the last week, and hospitalization have also declined 8.8%.

Lenny Bernstein, a health reporter at The Washington Post had an interview with CBS News where he said that BA.2 doesn’t appear to cause any more serious illness than BA.1, the omicron variant.

“It may very well become common here (U.S.) without us even noticing. It may prolong the Omicron period a little bit, but it doesn’t appear to do anything different than BA.1. And for that we should be thankful,” Bernstein said.

Medpage Today wrote an all-inclusive article about the new variant with medical advice and statistics coming from Katelyn Jetelina, a PhD epidemiologist at the UT Health Science Center located in Houston, Texas.

BA.2 was first detected in December and made way as a “stealth” variant meaning it cannot be tested for and will not show up as BA.2 on COVID tests.

One concerning factor is that being a “stealth” variant means it is more transmissible than the original Omicron, but it is showing much less hospitalizations. It also is showing more mutations than Omicron.

Comparisons show that BA.1 (Omicron) has about 60 mutations while our new BA.2 variant has about 85 mutations.

Countries like Denmark and Norway are reporting rapid increases of BA.2 and showing that it is likely this may be the more contagious variant compared to BA.1.

Still, there is no evidence that it shows any more severity in symptoms than Omicron does. There is also no evidence proving that anyone who is infected with the original strain of Omicron can be affected again by BA.2.

Scientists have high hopes of this just being another “plus” variant, that does not show any real potential of being a huge problem as the Delta variant had the same “plus” variant with it but had no real position over the original.