West News Wire: New cases of the COVID variant BA.2.86 are being reported by more health officials across the U.S. 

A member of the Houston Methodist Hospital’s genome sequencing team announced on X, formerly known as Twitter, on Thursday that the team had found the first case in Texas. Director of the Ohio Department of Health Dr. Bruce Vanderhoff acknowledged the discovery of one case on the same day. 

According to public health professionals and the open global genome sequencing database GISAID, these states join Michigan, New York, and Virginia. 

The original SARS-CoV-2 virus, which caused the COVID-19 pandemic in January 2020, has undergone hundreds of variations, but the majority eventually die out. 

Public health experts around the world are keeping track of BA.2.86 because of its high number of mutations. 

Both here in the United States and in other areas of the world, it is beginning to spread. According to Dr. William Schaffner, a professor of preventive medicine and infectious diseases at Vanderbilt University Medical Centre, it is unquestionably communicable, just like all of these subvariants of omicron. “As we are all aware, these COVID viruses are not exclusive to a single nation. Their passport is not required. They have the potential to quickly spread over the world. 

The strain BA.2.86 was discovered for the first time on July 24 in Denmark, followed by Israel and Michigan in August of this year. According to GISAID, it has since been reported in South Africa, Canada, England, France, and Portugal. 

It has more than 30 mutations to the spike protein which the virus uses to attach to and infect cells and is why Schaffner said he and other experts believe it may be contributing to the increase in COVID hospitalizations in the U.S. 

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Data updated Monday from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found hospitalizations rose 18.8% for the week ending Aug.19.  

The most recent data from the CDC shows that EG.5, another offshoot XBB, currently makes up a plurality of COVID cases in the U.S. 

Schaffner stated, “It’s possible that [BA.2.86] will contribute to what’s out there, but it may not become the dominant strain.” 

This information is being released as the CDC advisory council prepares to meet on September 12 to consider novel boosters that target COVID subvariants. Mid- to late-September is when the boosters are anticipated to be made available. 

Although it is unknown how well the new boosters will protect against BA.2.86, Schaffner noted that because the current vaccine is meant to target XBB, it may offer adequate defence against serious illness and hospitalisation. 

Officials will keep an eye on how quickly and how contagious the variety spreads over the coming weeks. 

One important tool to use could be wastewater data. Wastewater sampling is how officials in New York City detected BA.2.86. Officials said the sample did not come from a local resident, but the variant’s presence in wastewater means it’s undoubtedly circulating. 

Public health experts have previously said wastewater tracking is a good early detection tool for monitoring potential future upticks. 


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