It’s not as severe as past variants, but officials say it’s important to be concerned.
Frederick, Md. (KM) – The newest variant of the COVID-19 virus which has caused spikes in infections in Europe is here in the United States. That’s according to Dr. Randy County, Frederick County’s Deputy Health Officer and Medical Director. “The BA.2 has been around all this time.. But has slowly, slowly, been gaining an increase amount of cases just not in the United State, but across the globe,” he says.
Dr. Culpepper says the BA.2 is a subvariant of the omicron variant of COVID-19. Others are BA.1, BA.2 and BA.3.
It already accounts for 50% of the COVID cases in parts of New England. And it has been detected in Maryland. “I actually can tell you we have here in Maryland for sure. About 17% of the specimens that are sequenced in this state are BA2,”: he says.
At this time, it’s hard to determine if the variant is in Frederick County, but it could be. “We don’t have data by county in the state to tell us how many cases we have in each county,” says Dr. Culpepper. “But I’m almost certain we probably do have it. I wouldn’t be surprised.”
In most parts of the US, BA.2 is not the most dominant COVID case. But Dr. Culpepper says we still need to be concerned. “I think we should be worried about every variant or every subvariant because we don’t know much about them until we see more of them in the community, and start understanding a little bit more about what its characteristic are.”
At the present, patients who contract the BA.2 subvariant will probably end up with a cough, fever, sore threat, and fatigue, the same symptoms other patients have experienced since the beginning of the pandemic. “The BA2—what we’ve seen so far—does not look like it’s causing any more severe disease than the regular omicron variant did,” Dr. Culpepper says. “So that ‘s important for us to know. It does not appear to be causing increased hospitalizations.”
“We’ve got so many tools in the toolbox to protect us from any variant that comes along, says Dr. Culpepper. He says they include the vaccines, wearing a mask in uncertain situations, practicing social distancing and getting tested. Testing kits are available free of charge from the Health Department and public libraries, They can be purchased at local pharmacies and other retailers.
By Kevin McManus