New, more contagious COVID variant surges in U.S.

DAYTON — As we continue to emerge from the most recent Omicron surge in Ohio, there is a subvariant increasing across the region and around the world.

It’s called Omicron BA.2 and it’s proving to be more contagious than previous variants.

Ohio has not seen much of the Omicron BA.2 variant yet, but health experts in the Miami Valley said that could change in the coming weeks.

“The worst thing that we can do right now is ignore it,” said Dr. Roberto Colon who is the Chief Medical Officers at Miami Valley Hospital. “We cannot pretend that this isn’t anything to worry about.”

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Colon continues by saying it’s equally bad to overreact.

“We have had a steady decline in cases, despite BA.2 becoming a dominant force,” Colon said.

COVID-19 community levels remain low across Ohio. In Montgomery County the case rate is just over 19 per 100,000 and hospitalization are 1.5 per 100,000.

“We have more immunity in our communities than we’ve had at any other point during this pandemic,” Colon said. “Once in a while we have a mutation or series of mutations that leads to a new variant that changes things a bit.”

Omicron BA.2 cases have steadily increased.

Colon said, “It is gradually becoming the dominant variant. It now accounts for half of the cases in the U.S. So far, every variant has become a little more infectious, but we haven’t seen this rise in severity recently.”

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In January 2022, BA.2 made up just .8 percent of COVID cases in the U.S. As of this week, it’s 55 percent of cases.

“Variants are not unexpected,” said Dan Suffoletto, Public Information Officer with Public Health Dayton-Montgomery County.

Suffoletto said Public Health has tracked very few cases of BA.2 in Ohio.

“The variant that we’re discussing has not caused a large amount of hospitalizations or deaths in the United States, so that’s good,” Suffoletto said.

The CDC reports 96 percent of COVID cases in Ohio are still the original Omicron variant. Just over 4 percent of BA.2

“If you’re not vaccinated, you do have an increased risk. So, that’s why we’re encouraging people to get vaccinated. Whether it’s this variant or others there undoubtedly will be other variants as they come down the road,” Suffoletto said.

He continued by saying we don’t know, down the road, if scientists are going to tweak the formula of the vaccine like they way they do with the flu to try to match different strands.