Experts raise concerns about new Covid mutant variant BA.6 possibly arriving in US – mask advocacy grows
The mutant strain of Covid, referred to as BA.6, has been identified in Israel and Denmark so far. However, a number of experts believe it will soon appear in tests conducted in the United States.
In the US, regular swab tests are not as frequent anymore. And only a small portion of positive cases are further examined to identify the specific Covid variant causing the infection. As a result, it can take quite a while before new strains of the virus are discovered.
“I’m sure it is already here. If it hasn’t already made it here, it probably will very soon,” Dr. Thomas Moore, an infectious diseases expert at the University of Kansas, told DailyMail.
A changed version of the virus, which comes from the original Omicron type, has raised worries among certain scientists due to its large number of changes in the spike protein. This spike protein is what vaccines were created to attack.
Potential impact on vaccine effectiveness and new variant’s influence on immunity
There’s a possibility that the new variant could weaken the effectiveness of vaccines if it has transformed significantly from its parent Omicron strain. However, many experts believe that no matter the new variation, vaccines and previous infection can still provide some level of protection.
My various science WhatsApp groups are buzzing. Genetic lineage clips and diagrams flying back and forth. I understand little of the detail but it looks like it's once again time to MASK UP.
— Trisha Greenhalgh (@trishgreenhalgh) August 15, 2023
Still, there isn’t any information available at the moment regarding whether this strain is more prone to causing hospitalizations or fatalities compared to earlier variations.
Professor Christina Pagel, a mathematician at University College London shared on social media that it’s still quite early to draw conclusions. However, she acknowledged that the new variant has many new changes that make it quite different from earlier Omicron versions. She mentioned that this could potentially increase its ability to cause a significant increase in cases, as reported by the Mirror.
According to experts, it will be a few weeks and at least 50 confirmed cases before researchers can figure out how easily BA.6 spreads and how dangerous it is.