Health

All You Need To Know About The Omicron Subvariant: Stealth Omicron

Shikha Batra
3 to 7 years

Created by Shikha Batra
Updated on Feb 11, 2022

All You Need To Know About The Omicron Subvariant Stealth Omicron

As the world is limping back to normalcy with the decline in number of cases and presumably the Omicron wave is considered to be subsiding, there is yet another twist in the story. Unfortunately the pandemic is far from over as recently a subvariant of the latest Omicron variant of SARS-CoV-2 has been found. The World Health Organization in its latest updates has suggested that this subvariant of Omicron is said to be more contagious than its ancestor Omicron and is likely to spread globally. 

As per the scientists, the original Omicron variant called BA.1 was until recently the most transmissible known version of the virus which led to the steepest and the tallest peaks in new COVID-19 cases in many countries. But, now with the latest reports coming up one of its descendants known as BA.2 or Stealth Omicron has been found which can spread even faster and may soon take over and become the dominant version of the virus . In Denmark, researchers have found that BA.2 is about 1.5 times more transmissible than the original Omicron strain, BA.1. According to the  WHO, the subvariant is already circulating in at least 69 countries, including the U.S., the U.K. and Denmark.

The epidemiologist and the technical lead for Covid-19 at the WHO, Dr Maria Van Kerhove said during a press conference on Tuesday “BA.2 is more transmissible than BA.1, so we expect to see BA.2 increasing in detection around the world.” The subvariant contains over 30 plus mutations in the spike protein, due to which it is highly transmissible. Besides this, these multiple mutations also help it escape vaccine-induced immunity which adds to the woes of breakthrough infections. To top it off, WHO has some more bad news to share according to which, people who have had COVID in the past are more prone to it, if they happen to come in close contact with the Omicron. 

Why has the subvariant of Omicron  been named “Stealth”?

The subvariant of Omicron lacks feature or a particular genetic mutation that allows probable cases to be distinguished from other variants using lab based standard Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) tests. The name “stealth omicron” has been given to the subvariant by some researchers simply because it lacks the deletion that allows PCR tests to spot it. 

What are the symptoms of Stealth Omicron?

There are two symptoms of Stealth Omicron that may show up even before one tests positive. One of the common symptoms is vertigo or dizziness which is an early sign of the infection caused by the Omicron subvariant. If the symptoms are persistent for long it is advisable to contact your healthcare professional who may advise you further investigations.

The other common symptom which appears quite quicker than in the ancestral variants if one gets infected by the subvariant of Omicron is fatigue. Dr. Angelique Coetzee, the South African doctor who first alerted authorities about Omicron back in November 2021, has also said that fatigue besides muscle pain can be among the early signs of the variant.

The other common symptoms associated with the Omicron subvariant are:

  • Runny nose

  • Scratchy/dry throat

  • Headache

  • Fatigue

  • Mild muscle aches

  • Sneezing

  • Body pain

  • Headache

  • Loss of appetite

  • Vomiting

 

The more unusual signs include fainting, congestion, brain fog, skin rashes and conjunctivitis. Some people also have reported experiencing sleep paralysis and night sweats.

Is Stealth Omicron worrisome?

The WHO has not yet considered BA.2 to be a distinct “variant of concern” but it continues to monitor its spread. This different version of Omicron which is now gaining traction is already now the dominant variant in Denmark as it records more than 50,000 new cases in just one day last week. Regardless of whether the initial case was BA.1 or BA.2, unvaccinated people are still more susceptible to infection. 

What experts have to advise?

Peter Hotez, MD, PhD, Dean of the National School of Tropical Medicine at Baylor College of Medicine as a tool to fight any variant has emphasized the importance of being up to date with COVID-19 vaccinations, including the booster which will “give you the 30- to 40- fold bump in virus-neutralizing antibodies and prolong your immune response.” In a joint statement released in December 2021, the AMA, American Hospital Association , and American Nurses Association, urged the public to get vaccinated and get their booster shots as a way to fight COVID-19 variants.

 

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