Another highly contagious subvariant to Omicron has made its way into the United States. Omicron subvariant BA.2.75, or ‘Centaurus’, saw its two first cases in the US on June 14, a CDC spokesperson told MedPage Today in an email.
The World Health Organization (WHO) released a video on Twitter last week after the variant was found in 10 countries. As of July 19 it had been detected in 19 countries and seven states in the U.S.
Here’s what we know so far about the BA.2.75 variant:
Should we be worried about the Omicron subvariant BA.2.75?
Simply put, yes.
Raj Rajnarayanan, Assistant Dean of Research, NYITCOM at Arkansas State University, recently conducted a preliminary review from India (where the variant was initially detected). This is what was learned:
BA.2.75 may outperform Omicron subvariant BA.5 in terms of growth. Whether BA.2.75 makes people sicker than other variants is not yet known.
What is speculated is that BA.2.75 may spread quickly and overcome immunity from vaccinations and prior infections. Medical experts have also raised concerns regarding BA.2.75.
Dr. Eric Topol, professor of molecular medicine at Scripps Research and founder and director of the Scripps Research Translational Institute, had this to say about the BA.2.75 variant in one of his tweets:
“The concern for BA.2.75 is it has 8 more mutations beyond BA.5, making immune escape worse than what we’re seeing now.”
Dr. Bruce Walker, director of the Ragon Institute of MGH, MIT, and Harvard, and co-leader of the Massachusetts Consortium on Pathogen Readiness, had this to say in his interview with Fortune:
“BA.2.75 is something we should all be concerned about.”
He added: “The new variant gives us insight into just what the virus is capable of in terms of mutation. Since another subvariant to Omicron has been detected, I think it shows that the virus has not come anywhere close to exploring all of the evolutionary space available to it.”
If you have yet to uncover the details of BA.5, here’s an article that explains everything you need to know.
Where has BA.2.75 been detected?
“It’s about a quarter of the cases in India right now. It’s starting to compete with BA.5,” said Dr. Allison Arwady, the Chicago Department of Public Health commissioner, told NBC5 in Chicago. “It does look to be contagious, at this point, it doesn’t look to be more serious, but we’re still learning. We’re watching it just like we watch other variants. “
She also went on to say that the inception of new variants makes it harder to predict a post-pandemic world.
As of this writing, BA.2.75 has since been detected in 19 countries since it was first discovered. These nations include:
- New Zealand
- United Kingdom
- United States
In the United States alone, it has been detected in seven different states.
- New York
- North Carolina
Do vaccines work against the Omicron subvariant BA.2.75?
While limited information has been discovered regarding the Omicron BA.2.75 subvariant, early signs indicate vaccines do prevent a serious infection. However, not enough is yet known about the long-term effects of infection.
Prioritizing omicron sub-variants has become a focus of attention for the FDA. It advised vaccine manufacturers last June 30 to update vaccine formulations for this coming fall. They recommend adding a BA.4/5 spike protein component to the current vaccine. This comes as no surprise given that BA.4 and BA.5 have been the most prevalent variants in the past few months.
Dr. Dean Winslow, professor of medicine at Stanford (Calif.), told CBS News that “the virus has been quicker than we are.”
“In reality, we won’t be able to finish producing the vaccines in only a few weeks. Vaccine production takes a bit to ramp up for some of these more recent strains.”
Even though there are just 16 cases of the subvariant in the United States to date, health professionals are hesitant to make conclusions until additional information is available.
Director of infectious diseases division at MedStar Washington (D.C.) Hospital Center, Dr. Glenn Wortmann, told radio station WTOP that the current COVID-19 vaccination should be effective against BA.2.75. He added that the best way to avoid a COVID infection or reinfection is to stick with the basics:
“The best way not to get infected is the old standard: Don’t be around sick people. If you’re in crowds, wear a mask. If you feel sick, stay home so you don’t infect other people.”
As we wait on further information regarding another possible VOC, experts advise everyone to take the following actions. This is to try and curb the spread of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic:
- Stay up to date on your COVID-19 immunizations and booster shots
- Get tested for COVID-19 before going to any social gathering (indoor or outdoor)
- Continue to use face masks whenever you go out
- Sanitize your hands, disinfect high-touch areas, and observe other safe hygiene practices
Remember, COVID-19 can strike at any moment. Don’t let your guard down even if you’ve been fully vaccinated. The latest Omicron subvariants have been known to evade vaccine-induced immunity and natural immunity from a prior infection.
Once you or someone you know exhibits any symptoms, isolate yourself immediately and get tested.
You can request a COVID-19 testing kit delivered straight to your home here.