Is it here? Who knows? If Stealth is in its name, don’t you think it makes sense that it will sneak in while we slumber? So, wake up and watch the numbers.
According to the World Health Organization, Omicron, also referred to as B.1.1.529, has three subvariants: BA.1, BA.2 and BA.3. To date, BA.1 has dominated Omicron cases worldwide. In some places, however, BA.2 has emerged and is spreading more rapidly.
BA.2 has now been detected in 49 countries, gaining ground in the United Kingdom, Sweden, Norway, India and the United States. In Denmark, it is now the dominant subvariant.
The original version of Omicron, BA.1, had specific genetic features that made it easy to differentiate from Delta so that a particular polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test could immediately detect it. Well, not its sneaky sibling, BA.2.
Like the classic middle child, BA.2 wants to set itself apart from its siblings. It wants to shine. And it does. Despite its similarities with BA.1, BA.2 stands out with more than 20 mutations in its spike protein.
A worrisome fact for experts as the spike protein is the target of many Covid-19 vaccines. Because of its innate differences from the original, is BA.2 more transmissible, more virulent and worse, capable of evading immune responses?
While there is not enough data, at the moment, to arrive at the conclusion that BA.2 should be classified as a subvariant of concern, there is speculation that it is more transmissible than BA.1. And a highly transmissible virus is always cause for concern.
And because unlike BA.1, BA.2 does not share the defining genetic features that sets it apart from Delta, it can fly under the radar. BA.2 cannot be flagged as Omicron in a positive PCR test because it doesn’t look like Omicron. Or at least the Omicron as we know it.
A PCR test will catch it as SARS-CoV-2 but it won’t be able to tell that it’s Omicron. BA.2 can fly incognito until further surveillance like genetic sequencing is performed. Hence, the moniker, “Stealth Omicron.”
Because like a stealth bomber, BA.2 is not easy to detect. Not impossible to detect. But hard to detect. Because it hides its true colors from PCR tests.
As if the original version, BA.1, was not enough to cause havoc worldwide with its ability to spread like wildfire, its sibling, BA.2, had to sneak in to join the party. Like we need more variants in this already mentally-crushing pandemic.
I mean, seriously? It’s only January.
Should we worry about BA.2? Still seems to be mild. Well, worry is for worrywarts like me. At the very least, I think you should be wary. After all, it’s probably stupid not to lock the gates when someone called “Stealth” has already sneaked in to other people’s homes.
I’d beef up security. But that’s just me.
January 29, 2022
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