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VDH: Omicron variant detected in low levels in Virginia

The Virginia Health Department says the BA.2 variant has been detected in low levels in Virginia. But, its parent, omicron, is still the predominant strain.
Published: Mar. 21, 2022 at 2:05 PM EDT|Updated: Mar. 21, 2022 at 4:10 PM EDT
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RICHMOND, Va. (WWBT) - The Virginia Health Department says the BA.2 variant has been detected in low levels in Virginia. But, its parent, omicron, is still the predominant strain.

VDH works with the state lab to sequence and detect COVID-19 variants. With the state’s COVID-19 response team, Doctor Julia Murphy says we should expect to see more cases associated with the BA.2 variant.

She says that’s because the new variant is one and a half times more transmissible. But Dr. Murphy also says it’s not causing severe illness or hospitalizations at this point.

“In part, what happens in the future is shaped by what we do now. And now is the time for preparation, not the time for panic,” Dr. Julia Murphy, VDH COVID-19 Response Team.

The variant has already caused cases to increase in other parts of the world. It is estimated to account for about 25% or 30% of new cases in the U.S.

“We think that if you were infected with the omicron and/or you have been vaccinated, a very important point, we think the likelihood you would become infected with this BA.2 variant is low,” said Dr. Murphy.

State health officials do not anticipate that the BA.2 variant would cause nearly the rise or spike in cases as we saw last year with omicron.

But, only about one-third of Virginians considered boosted. The health department says vaccines and boosters are widely available.

“Like with most viruses, same message still applies, hand washing. If you feel you are in an enclosed area and you feel comfortable wearing a mask, you may do so,” said Okey Utah, Richmond City Health Epidemiologist.

With the improved weather, health leaders are also encouraging better ventilation. If you are at an indoor meeting, move it outside or open a window.

Copyright 2022 WWBT. All rights reserved.

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