What Is ‘Stealth’ Omicron?

Despite the word “stealth” attached to the new omicron variant, experts said there is no reason to fear the new form of the novel coronavirus. 

Understanding BA.2

The new strain with the scientific name BA.2 is one of the three derivatives of the omicron variant. It has since been making headlines after being nicknamed “stealth omicron” because its moniker conjured the notion that a more villainous coronavirus was out to get everyone. 

However, sources of The New York Times are not, in the tiniest bit, alarmed by the new variant. Aside from not causing more severe illness in people infected with it, vaccines are also just as effective against BA.2 as other forms of omicron. 

Genetically speaking, stealth omicron has mutations comparable to the delta variant. They also make it harder to identify when examined alongside BA.1, the original version of omicron. 

The BA.1 strain has features that make it easy to tell apart from the delta variant via a PCR test. Since BA.2 does not have such features, it will appear just like delta using the same test. 

“It’s not that the test doesn’t detect it; it’s just that it doesn’t look like omicron. Don’t get the impression that ‘stealth omicron’ means we can’t detect it. All of our PCR tests can still detect it,” Houston Methodist in Texas pathologist Dr. Wesley Long told Wood-TV

The Problem With BA.2

Stealth omicron has mutations that could make it spread more readily. Because it appears to be more contagious than the original omicron, BA.2 could quietly spread even faster than the omicron in a short period. 

Epidemiologist Eric Feigl-Ding wrote on Twitter that stealth omicron cases are doubling every day in the U.K. Meanwhile, the new strain has already overtaken the original omicron in Denmark

“This may mean higher peak infections in places that have yet to peak, and a slowdown in the downward trends in places that have already experienced peak Omicron,” Imperial College London virologist Thomas Peacock told The New York Times.

Thus far, experts in the U.S. have yet to see stealth omicron gain ground in the country. It also remains unknown if the variant causes more severe symptoms than the original version of omicron — found to cause mild symptoms among those infected. 

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