New Omicron subvariant BA.2 detected in Washington

A new sub-variant of COVID-19, the BA.2 variant, has been detected in Washington, health officials announced Monday.

BA.2 is a subvariant, or sublineage, of the Omicron variant, nicknamed ‘stealth omicron’ in some publications. According to the Centers for Disease Control, mutations occur in the coronavirus’ genome all the time, but only occasionally change the characteristic of a virus. If a virus in an area undergoes enough meaningful mutations, scientists may determine it to be a new variant.

Variants, just like the original virus, undergo their own mutations that can lead to lineages like this new BA.2 subvariant.

The mutations, lineages and variants can be viewed like a family tree, with the first SARS-CoV-2 virus being the common ancestor—except all the branches on this tree cause COVID-19.

The Omicron variant, also referred to as B.1.1.529, already has three main subvariants: BA.1, BA.2 and BA.3. In December, the World Health Organization reported over 99% of the cases they sequenced were BA.1. Now, BA.2 cases are looking to outpace BA.1 cases in parts of the world like Denmark.

It should be noted there were similar concerns about the Delta subvariant AY.4.2 outpacing the main variant this fall. Health officials are still keeping a close eye on infections and will determine if the subvariant needs to be uplifted into a named variant.

The Washington State Department of Health says, as of Monday, two cases of the BA.2 variant have been detected in the state. DOH has not provided further information about where the infections occurred.

Health officials continue to monitor several named variants, some of which have not been reported as long ago as June 2021.

You can find a full list of COVID-19 variants of concern, variants and sublineages being tracked on the CDC website.

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