Appearance of ‘Son of Omicron' in San Diego Closely Watched By Local Infectious-Disease Experts

The BA.2 omicron subvariant is more contagious and can reinfect people, but isn't more virulent, studies find

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The new BA.2 omicron subvariant has been responsible for surges in parts of Europe and Asia, and now, California and San Diego County are also seeing this mutation appear in some of the latest COVID-19 cases.

San Diego County has confirmed 140 BA.2 cases. Researchers believe it's critical for them to monitor new variants and study their impacts so the community can be prepared for future surges.

How different is the BA.2 subvariant of the coronavirus? Not much, says NBC News medical contributor Dr. John Torres. The subvariant has not been labeled as a variant of concern, and it's not that different from Omicron, Torres says. Here's a metaphor: if a fully new variant is like the virus putting on a full new outfit, a subvariant is just putting on new shoes.

“We've made it through the omicron wave and now we're having the Omicron2 bump, as I would say,” Dr. Davey Smith told NBC 7.

Smith is the chief of infectious diseases and global public health at UC San Diego and describes the new omicron subvariant as the "son of omicron."

San Diego County COVID-19 Watch report from March 23

“BA.2 is basically evolved from its parent, omicron, and it is a little more infectious than the original omicron strain,” Smith said.

Smith said that, while BA.2 is slightly more infectious than the original omicron variant, the mutation does not appear to be more deadly and hospitalizations and the death rate remain low.

It's been called "stealth omicron" or "deltacron." A new subvariant of the COVID-19 virus is making headlines, so we talked to NBC News medical correspondent Dr. John Torres to learn more. He explained how the variant "plagiarizes" from the Omicron and Delta variants that previously caused surges, and why this may not cause a new surge here in the U.S.

While COVID-19 case numbers have dipped in comparison with the winter surge due to the omicron variant, researchers are keeping a close watch, nevertheless

“Thankfully. if they're vaccinated and they're boosted, the infection doesn't last as long and is not as severe,” Smith said.

According to the latest data, San Diego County has not reported a single COVID-19 death or hospitalization blamed on the new variant.

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