The first cases of a new strain of Stealth Omicron, BA.2 – Deadline are observed in Los Angeles

Updated, 15:02: Los Angeles County Health Director Barbara Ferrer confirmed today that a new strain of Omicron, dubbed BA.2, has been found in the Southern California metropolis.

For the week of Jan. 2 to 8, she announced that BA.2 had been detected in 4 cases in the county. This is a very small number of cases, given that 25% of the tens of thousands of tests conducted each day are analyzed for options.

However, the fact that BA.2 is spreading rapidly in countries such as Denmark, where it now accounts for at least 60% of new infections, is a cause for concern.

“We’ve probably overcome Omicron Peak in Los Angeles County,” Ferrer said today, noting that the number of new cases, positive tests and hospitalizations are falling. She then warned Angelenos to be careful, given that “in places that have already exceeded the peak, it seems that BA.2 is causing a new surge”.

EARLIER on Wednesday: Two days after the first cases of branching of the more transmissible Omicron variant were detected in the United States, 11 cases of a strain called BA.2 were reported in California on Tuesday. According to numerous reports, two of these cases were found in one of the most populous counties in Santa Clara.

These are the first days, but given the rate of proliferation in countries such as Denmark and the UK, some experts argue that BA.2 is likely to be at least slightly more transmissible than the original Omicron (BA.1).

“The continued growth of BA.2 in several counties means it is more transmitted than BA.1,” epidemiologist Dr. Caitlin Jatelina of the University of Texas at Houston’s Health Science Center wrote on Tuesday. “Perhaps it’s nothing more than the huge jump in portability we’ve seen from Delta to Omicron.”

Denmark has suffered the most from BA.2. On Monday, it accounted for nearly half of the test samples sequenced in the country. In the last week of December, according to the Statens Serum Institut under the auspices of the Danish Ministry of Health, the sub-variant accounted for 20% of all Covid cases in Denmark. According to data collected by GISAID, today more than 60% of cases in this country were BA.2.


The proportion of cases in Denmark is BA.2 (brown) and BA.1 (purple)

This means that, according to Dr. Zhetelina, the new version of Omicron seems to be ahead of the first in Denmark, just like this version of Delta.

BA.2 was named Stealth because officials suspect that the branch may be harder to identify by other options than the original Omicron, not because it deviates from current testing modes. BA.2 does not show a signal sign in PCR tests, which often indicates Omicron. Although a PCR test will still give an overall positive result, such samples must be genomically sequenced – a much more expensive and time-consuming process that is less common – to identify a specific variant.

The first cases of BA.2 in the US were announced Monday in Washington state. At least three cases have been found at Houston Methodist Hospital, where genome sequencing is more reliable than elsewhere.

The UK, Norway, France, India, Sweden and dozens of other countries are also experiencing cases of Omicron branching.

“New options will continue to evolve as long as there are large pockets of unvaccinated people,” the California Department of Public Health said in a statement to Mercury News. “Strengthening our protection against Covid-19 through vaccination and revitalization is more important than ever.”

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