New Omicron subvariants detected in two Australian states

New sub variants of Omicron have been discovered in two Australian states.

South Australia has reported cases of the BA.4 and BA.5 Omicron strain in international travelers, while Victoria has detected the BA.2.12.1 variant in a wastewater catchment area.

The BA.4 and BA.5 strains have not been previously reported in Australia.

COVID-19 as seen under a microscope.
New sub-variants of COVID-19 have been discovered in two Australian states. (AP)

South Australia’s Chief Public Health Officer, Professor Nicola Spurrier, said health authorities are “monitoring very closely” the transmissibility and severity of the new variants.

“This is expected to be quite similar to the other Omicron variants,” said Professor Spurrier.

“I’m sure we’ll see things like this crop up in other states.”

Infectious disease expert Associate Professor Stuart Turville said more time is needed to understand the transmissibility and severity of these variants.

“BA.4 and BA.5 have a small change in part of the virus that in previous variants aided transmission and also allowed the variant to modestly evade antibodies,” said Professor Turville.

“The important thing is that these are small changes in the virus, and no different from what we’ve seen before.

“They may not look like the big shift we saw with Delta to Omicron.”

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Concerns about portability of BA.2.12.1

Early evidence suggests that the BA.2.12.1 strain is more transmissible than BA.2 but does not cause more serious disease.

Professor Sanjaya Senanayake told Today that the new Omicron subvariant currently “dominates the American landscape.”

“Especially in New York and it appears to be about 25 percent more transferable than BA.2, which is about 30 percent more transferable than BA.1,” he said.
Professor Sanjaya Senanayake told Today that the new Omicron subvariant is currently: "dominate the American landscape"†
Professor Sanjaya Senanayake told Today that the new Omicron subvariant currently “dominates the American landscape.” (Today)

“People don’t seem to get sicker than with previous Omicron variants, but it does seem more transmissible.”

The strain has also been found in Europe

At the start of the pandemic, there were concerns about the capacity of intensive care units and the availability of ventilators in hospitals.

Professor Senanayake said the reality now is that hospitals are “stuck on a steady trickle” COVID-19 hospitalized patients for the foreseeable future”.

“(This) means that resources, doctors, nurses and ward space must continue to be devoted to that,” he said.

“That’s going to be the real battle here.”

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