BA.2.12.1 cases, which appear to be more transmissible than BA.2 or’stealth omicron,’ are rapidly increasing in the United States.
Coronavirus instances are increasing in the United States as a novel, highly transmissible subvariant of omicron begins to spread throughout the country.
Each day, the United States sees an average of more than 56,000 new coronavirus cases. This is an increase from the about 25,000 infections recorded daily in early April.
Almost every infection in the United States is caused by the omicron coronavirus type. There are various subvariants of omicron, but BA.2 – sometimes known as “stealth omicron” – has been the predominant strain circulating since March.
However, another omicron subvariant is rapidly growing in popularity, and experts believe it may be more transmissible than BA.2.
BA.2.12.1 was responsible for 29% of new coronavirus infections as of mid-April, according to CDC data. This is up from 19% of cases the previous week and 14% of infections in the first week of April.
“As a reminder, it was the BA.1 omicron subvariant that was responsible for the early-year increase,” CDC Director Rochelle Walensky said last week during a conference call with reporters. “At the moment, BA.1 accounts for around 3% of all sequences identified. We are increasingly detecting the BA.2 omicron subvariant, which accounts for approximately 68 percent of circulating virus. We discovered the BA.2.12.1 subvariant more recently.”
Certain regions, such as the Northeast, are experiencing a higher rate of BA.2.12.1 infection than others. The New York State Department of Health initially announced the subvariant’s arrival in the state in mid-April. According to the department, it was responsible for 41% of infections in the state as of April 23.
“We are only beginning to understand the impact of BA.2.12.1,” Walensky explained. “It appears as though it has a 25% transmission advantage over the BA.2 subvariant. Additional research is being conducted to determine the effect of BA.2.12.1 on vaccine efficacy. However, we continue to feel that those who are vaccinated, particularly those who are boosted, have a high level of protection against severe disease, including that caused by BA.2.12.1.”
The World Health Organization agreed with the CDC’s assessment, noting that BA.2.12.1 appears to have a “growth advantage” over BA.2, but cautioned that data were scarce.
“At the moment, existing research does not indicate that there are disparities in severity or clinical symptoms,” the World Health Organization said in a recent report. “Additional data are expected as studies continue.”
Helix, a genetic sequencing company that monitors COVID-19 variations, forecasts that BA.2.12.1 will not result in another outbreak. However, the business stated in a statement that the variation is “uniquely” increasing in the United States, as it has not taken root to the same amount in other nations.
It highlighted that “this means that, like Delta, sub-Omicron variants are growing increasingly diversified, making it more difficult to derive lessons from another country’s trends.”
And, according to former White House coronavirus response task force coordinator Deborah Birx, the United States should anticipate a summer coronavirus outbreak, at least across the South.
“We should be preparing now for a summer rush over the southern United States, as we saw in 2020 and 2021,” Birx told CBS’ “Face the Nation” on Sunday.
With increased infection, the virus has more opportunity to mutate. This complicates future planning, according to Maria Van Kerkhove of the WHO.
“The ambiguity regarding the next variant is a substantial source of anxiety for us since we need to plan for a variety of possible situations,” Van Kerkhove said last week during a news conference.