CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Just as it seems the nation could be hitting its peak in the current omicron surge, another version of the virus is coming on the radar.
While many of BA.2's properties are still being investigated, the COVID-19 subvariant has grown enough of a presence elsewhere in the world to offer some preliminary takeaways.
Dr. Brannon Traxler, Public Health Director with South Carolina's Department of Health and Environmental Control, said while the U.S. is relatively new to BA.2 cases, this version of the virus has already been detected in several countries.
"BA.2 has been found in thousands of cases worldwide. We just haven't seen it as early or as much in the United States thus far," Traxler said. "We are still watching other places that have had more of it to see how it's going to behave."
One country seeing a larger impact from BA.2 is Denmark, where health officials are tracking its spread.
Officials report an initial analysis shows BA.2 does not seem to cause more hospitalizations than the most common version of omicron there, BA.1.
A recent Danish report states that studies on vaccine effectiveness against BA.2 are still underway, but scientists believe they will find current vaccines still protect against severe illness.
Infectiousness relative to the common version of omicron is also still under the microscope, but the report shows BA.2 is gaining traction in the country, while BA.1 is losing ground, a similar trend seen in the U.S. when the formerly predominant delta variant gave way to omicron.
According to cov-lineages.org, BA.2 has also been detected in the U.K., India, Sweden, and Singapore.
The discovery comes as North Carolina starts to see more promise in its COVID-19 metrics, with the rise in hospitalizations slowing and daily cases beginning to flatten. Numbers, however, remain high, and the CDC still classifies the state as a high-transmission area.