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Omicron’s BA.4 and BA.5 subvariants have been detected in more than a dozen countries, helping fuel sporadic COVID outbreaks around the world, but the heavily mutated strains still circulate at low levels, the WHO said on Wednesday. World Health Organization.
Fewer than 700 cases of BA.4 have been detected in at least 16 countries and more than 300 cases of BA.5 in at least 17 countries, WHO Covid technical lead Maria Van Kerkhove said during a question-and-answer session. in the social networks of the organization. media platforms
While the two sublineages don’t make people sicker than the original omicron strain, they do appear to be more contagious, Van Kerkhove said. He noted that the WHO will monitor BA.4 and BA.5 to determine if they will eventually overtake BA.2 as the dominant strain worldwide.
“We don’t know how this variant will behave, how these sub-variants will behave in other countries that had a dominant wave of BA.2,” Van Kerhkove said. “This is what remains to be seen.”
The two subvariants, BA.4 and BA.5, have high detection rates in South Africa in particular, according to Kerhkove.
South Africa reported 395 cases of BA.4 and 134 cases of BA.5 as of May 6, the highest numbers of any country, according to a report published by the UK Health Security Agency last week. Countries are not sequencing the genetic data of every covid case, so actual infections are likely to be higher.
Just over 36 cases of BA.4 were found in Austria, 24 in the UK, 20 in the US and 17 in Denmark, according to the report. Belgium, Israel, Germany, Italy, Canada, France, the Netherlands, Australia, Switzerland and Botswana reported fewer than 10 cases of BA.4, according to the report.
According to the report, some 57 cases of BA.5 have been detected in Portugal, 52 in Germany and 17 in the United Kingdom. The United States, Denmark, France, Austria, Belgium, Hong Kong, Australia, Canada, Israel, Norway, Pakistan, Spain and Switzerland reported fewer than 10 BA.5 infections, according to the report.
The report noted that the number of sequences is low, but “the apparent geographic distribution suggests that the variant is successfully transmitted.”
Another subvariant of omicron called BA.2.12.1 has been detected in 23 countries, according to Van Kerkhove.
She said there are more than 9,000 reported sequences of the subvariant, most of which come from the US.
BA.2.12.1 accounted for approximately 42.6% of all new case sequences in the US for the week ending May 7, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. BA.2 remained the dominant subvariant in the country, accounting for 56.4% of all new sequence cases that week.
But BA.2.12.1 was dominant in New York, New Jersey, Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands, accounting for 66.3% of all new cases sequenced in those states and territories, according to CDC data.
Van Kerkhove said he expects to see an increase in BA.2.12.1 case detections around the world due to its higher rate of growth over BA.2. But BA.2.12.1 showed no difference in hospitalization rates compared to BA.2, according to Van Kerkhove.
He urged governments around the world to closely monitor BA.2.12.1, BA.4, BA.5 and other subvariants that could emerge in the future, emphasizing the need to maintain Covid testing and sequencing.
“We talk to the government all the time about needing to keep surveillance systems in place so that we can track this, track it and assess it in real time,” Van Kerkhove said.