“They’re all related. They’re all kind of sister sub-variants."By Andrea Alvarez

HILLSBOROUGH COUNTY, Fla. (CW44 News at 10) – As Omicron cases begin to slightly decrease across the U.S., doctors now have their eyes on a sub-variant widely referred to as “Stealth Omicron”. Researchers say it could be even more contagious than the original variant.

World health officials are also monitoring the subvariant, also known as BA.2. Experts say it’s been detected in over fourty countries including the U.S. Local researchers say it’s one of several “sister” subvariants of Omicron.

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“They’re all related. They’re all kind of sister sub-variants of the same lineage,” said Dr. Michael Teng, Associate Dean for the College of Medicine Internal Medicine at The University of South Florida. Dr. Teng also specializes in studies involving Immunology and Infectious Disease among other focuses. He says early studies show BA.2 is outcompeting its sister variants.
“There are Data coming from Denmark saying that it’s now becoming the dominant variant in Denmark being more transmissible than BA1,” he said.

One characteristic that separates “Stealth Omicron” from the Omicron variant, or BA.1, is it’s detection.

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“The Omicron that has been the dominant variant can be detected with a PCR test the same way the alpha variant can be detected by this pcr test. The subvariant, BA2, doesn’t have that same mutation so it cannot be detected with that particular PCR test,” said Dr. Teng.

International agencies have declared it a ‘variant under investigation”. Additional early data from Denmark suggests there isn’t a noticeable difference between the two in terms of symptoms and that even with a triple booster vaccine, BA.1 and BA.2 are nearly identical.

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“So there’s not really much of a difference between those two in terms of your immune response, either.” Dr. Michael Teng. The most important tip, he says, is that our approach to the prevention of spread doesn’t change. “If this is indeed a little bit more transmissible than the variant we have now, that means we’re going to kind of delay when our Omicron wave goes down.” Especially for Gasparilla Celebration crowds. “It’s important for people to be protected against SARS CoV-2 for Gasparilla regardless of the variant. Vaccines and boosters, masks, hand sanitation, avoiding large crowds, and reducing risk of exposure as much as possible. Hillsborough County is still averaging  more than 2,000 cases a day with a test positivity of more than 25%. BA.1 Omicron is highly transmissible itself; BA.2, if it comes, is still weeks away,” he said.