Breaking News: Another COVID Variant Emerges

  • Published
  • 24 August 2023
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  • News

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has released an initial risk assessment of BA.2.86, a newly designated variant of SARS-CoV-2 that has more than 30 additional mutations when compared to BA.2, which was the dominant Omicron lineage in early 2022. As of Aug. 23, nine cases linked to BA.2.86 were detected in five countries: the U.S., Denmark, Israel, South Africa and the United Kingdom. The variant also has been detected in wastewater samples in the U.S. (Michigan and Ohio), and in Switzerland and Thailand.

The CDC monitors COVID-related hospitalization rates, which increased by nearly 22 percent in the past week and were forecast to continue to climb over the next month. COVID-19-related deaths rose by more than 8 percent last week. Hospitalization rates were increasing before the identification of BA.2.86, possibly driven by a subvariant designated as EG.5.

With the flu season approaching along with rising COVID-19 case rates, WorkCare’s occupational health clinicians recommend continued practice of prevention measures in the workplace, including wearing a mask, as necessary; consistent hand washing and other personal hygiene practices; use of effective ventilation systems; advising employees to take a test to confirm COVID infection after a known exposure or when experiencing symptoms; and staying home when ill.

Based on current data, public health officials said existing COVID-19 tests and treatments appear to be effective against BA.2.86. However, this variant may more contagious than others for people who have already had COVID and/or are vaccinated. Meanwhile, a new vaccine that will target XBB.1.5, an Omicron subvariant, is undergoing effectiveness studies; Food and Drug Administration approval is pending.