Omicron BA2 Good News/Bad News
You might have heard that there is a new variant of Covid – Omicron BA.2 – sweeping across Europe and some places in Asia. Well, it’s here now too. More than a third of Covid cases in the US are this new variant as of late March. And for the elderly, those with compromised immune systems, those who are unvaccinated or unboosted, the danger is real.
This variant is even more contagious than the original Omicron variant. The average person infected with Omicron was said to be likely to infect 8 to 10 other people. With BA.2, that number rises to 12 or 13, putting it on far with the most contagious disease we know of – measles.
But there is somewhat of a silver lining.
With about two thirds of US adults vaccinated and a large number of Americans – some estimates say three quarters of us - having contracted the original Omicron variant health experts expect immunity levels to be very high. So far, it seems BA.2 is replacing Omicron, but the overall number of reported cases is not surging.
Also, like the original Omicron, the symptoms of this variant are generally less severe than earlier waves.
Health experts have been looking to other countries where BA.2 is widespread to an indication of how it might impact us in the US. In Hong Kong it has led to a large increase in death, because many of the elderly were not vaccinated. In the UK, and parts of Europe, BA.2 has led to an increased number of cases, hospitalizations and death and doctors are warning that governments removed restrictions too soon. In South Africa, which has a very low vaccination rate and where Omicron was almost universal, BA.2 hasn’t made much of a difference.
"We likely will see an uptick in cases," said chief medical advisor Dr. Anthony Fauci, recently. But he added: "hopefully, we won't see a surge. I don't think we will."
Nonetheless, if you are vulnerable, it would be wise to take precautions, such as wearing a mask indoors around others and making sure your vaccinations are current. As we have learned throughout the Covid pandemic, some people are unlucky and become very ill, or even die, while many others never even know they are infected.