Omicron BA.2 variant found in Louisville wastewater
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WAVE) - The BA.2 variant of omicron coronavirus has been detected inside Louisville wastewater, according to Louisville Metro Public Health and Wellness.
Health officials said BA.2 is a more easily transmittable version of omicron and has been found as a growing variant of COVID-19 within the United States in March.
The variant has been responsible for increasing cases overseas in Europe, with concerns that an uptick in cases would be caused by BA.2 in the U.S. as well.
Dr. Jeffrey Howard, medical director at Louisville Metro Public Health and Wellness, said at least two wastewater testing sites in west Louisville have detected the variant, and that it is likely within other areas of the city as well.
“I believe that this subvariant of COVID-19 is circulating throughout all of the Louisville community,” Howard said.
Howard said while data tends to show the United States following trends set by the U.K. over the course of several weeks, current data for the U.S. suggests the nation may not have as hard of a time with the virus as those overseas.
BA.2, however, is said to be about 50 percent more contagious than the original omicron variant, BA.1.
“Any one person who is infected with the BA.1 subvariant is expected to infect another eight people,” Howard said. “The current data that I’ve seen on the BA.2 subvariant suggests that (it can infect twelve people). So it’s 50 percent more effective.”
Howard said while it is more contagious, it doesn’t suggest the new variant is more deadly than the BA.1 subvariant.
He also mentioned that the current vaccines for COVID-19 are still effective for the BA.2 variant.
“We already know what to do, and we’ve been doing it a long time in this city,” Howard said. “I would encourage people to still get vaccinated.”
Health officials said current trends may show an uptick in cases due to the BA.2 variant, but it is not believed that this will affect the community the same way as the U.K. or transition the U.S. back to where it was six months ago when omicron emerged.
“We’re going to continue to monitor it closely,” Howard said.
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