NEW HAVEN, Conn. (WTNH) — Scientists and health officials are keeping their eyes on a descendant of the omicron variant. This version of the coronavirus, which scientists call BA.2, has been discovered in Connecticut, according to an associate professor at the Yale School of Public Health.
This variant is widely considered stealthier than the original version of omicron because particular genetic traits make it somewhat harder to detect. Some scientists worry it could also be more contagious.
“We detected the first BA.2 Omicron case in Connecticut,” Nathan Grubaugh posted to Twitter Tuesday. “[The] sample [was] collected on Jan. 8 from Fairfield County.”
Health experts say just because it was first detected in one area of the state does not mean it has not spread to others.
“It will present exactly the same as any other coronavirus infection,” said Dr. F. Perry Wilson, a Yale Medicine physician and researcher at Yale School of Medicine.
Grubaugh explained both versions of the omicron variant were very similar.
“So immunity from BA.1 *should* protect against BA.2, and BA.2 *probably* won’t be any worse for vaccines,” he wrote. “But data are still pending.”
The mutant has been found in at least 40 countries, including the United States. Grubaugh said it appeared the new version of omicron is more transmissible, predicting “it will likely become the dominant SARS-CoV-2 in the US too.”
He also said that he does not think BA.2 will lead to a significant resurgence of COVID-19 cases.
“While it’s more transmissible than BA.1, there is a lot of recent population immunity from the BA.1 wave, and hopefully not as many susceptible people to infect,” Grubaugh said.
The variant can reportedly cause a runny nose, cough, fever and body aches.
“Some of the PCR tests that can distinguish between Delta and omicron don’t pick up on BA.2. They know it’s coronavirus but they might inadvertently call it Delta when it’s actually omicron,” Wilson said.
As most viruses mutate in many forms, omicron is no different. A third has also been detected but little is known about its potency.
“We don’t even know for BA.3 whether it’s going to be more transmissible than BA.1 or BA.2 so you’ll just have to stay tuned, but the good news is all these variants are being traced,” Wilson said.
For now, the original version, known as BA.1, and BA.2 are considered subsets of omicron. But global health leaders could give it its own Greek letter name if it is deemed a globally significant “variant of concern.”
Doctors advise the same precautions they have all along: Get vaccinated and follow public health guidance about wearing masks, avoiding crowds and staying home when you’re sick.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.