New Subvariants May Spread Faster

Two new Omicron subvariants - known as BA.2.12 and BA.2.12.1 - appear to be behind rapidly increasing Covid numbers in New York State. Early estimates peg these subvariants at approximately 25% more transmissible than BA.2, which was more contagious than BA.1, which was itself more contagious than the original Omicron.

Adding to the bad news, the World Health Organization announced earlier this week that it is tracking a BA.4 and BA.5. Our final bit of bad news comes from the UK, where hundreds of cases of a new strain known as Omicron XE have been identified. XE appears to combine the genetic characteristics of BA.1 and BA.2 and is thought to spread about 10% more than BA.2.

It is too early to determine the extent to which any of these may be better able to evade immunity or cause more severe illness.


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