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First 'Stealth omicron' case detected in Connecticut, doctors say

Doctors say that while it's likely more infectious it is probably not more lethal and the vaccines will work just as well.

HARTFORD, Conn. — It hasn’t even been two months since the first case of the omicron variant of the COVID-19 virus was discovered in Connecticut and already, there’s news of yet another new variant. It’s called BA.2. It’s not exactly a new variant. It’s being called a sub-variant of Omicron.

So far, only one case has been discovered in Connecticut in Fairfield County, but it’s also been detected in 42 other countries and counting.

The omicron sub-variant known as BA.2 was detected in a sample that was genetically sequenced by the Yale School of Medicine on January 8.

"It has a number of other mutations that the main Omicron variant doesn’t have," Dr. F. Perry Wilson of the Yale School of Medicine said.

RELATED: Percentage of fully vaccinated people hospitalized with COVID in CT is on the rise

Twenty-eight unique mutations to be exact. The good news is that most of them do not affect the spike protein of the virus, which is what the vaccines latch on to in order to create antibody immunity.

"Were still going to take the same precautions and we are still going to treat I exactly the same. And it doesn’t seem to be more lethal," explained Dr. Ulysses Wu, of Hartford Healthcare.

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But there is some evidence to suggest it’s even more infectious than the highly infectious original strain of Omicron.

"It’s outcompeting the original Omicron in some countries in Europe, particularly Denmark," Perry explained.

So the big question is could it lead to yet another COVID surge?

"What we are going to be monitoring very closely is do we see any uptick in wastewater surveillance of the virus. Do we see any other uptick in cases overall?" Connecticut Dept. of Public Health Commissioner Dr. Manisha Juthani said.

The BA.2 omicron sub-variant is sometimes called the stealth variant for its ability to fool testing and be misclassified as Delta, but the scientists at Yale want to make it clear that COVID tests are still effective at picking it up.

"The PCR tests still pick up BA.2 the home tests still pick up BA.2 the reason they are calling it a stealth variant is because in certain PCR tests it looks more similar to Delta than it does to Omicron," explained Dr. Perry.

RELATED: State, medical leaders demand federal agencies speed up production of COVID-19 therapeutics

So, yes. There is a new sub-variant, as there has been with every other variant so far. Might COVID eventually mutate to the point where the vaccines need to be reformulated?

All the doctors FOX61 spoke to said most likely yes, but we already we do that each year with the flu shot.

Matt Caron is a reporter at FOX61 News. He can be reached at mcaron@fox61.com. Follow him on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.


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