Federal and state health officials are monitoring a new COVID variant.

Known as BA.2, this strain appears to be a further mutation of the BA.1, or omicron, variant.

It has been detected in small amounts in New Jersey.

While it is listed as a "variant of concern" by the CDC, it has only been showing up in trace amounts of coronavirus gene sequencing, and accounts for less than 4% of all COVID infections in the U.S.

However, it appears to be spreading more rapidly in the Northeast and on the West Coast.

New Jersey falls in the CDC's Region 2, where 5.4% of new COVID cases are attributed to BA.2. That is the third highest instance in the nation, behind only California and New England.

SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, is constantly changing and accumulating mutations in its genetic code over time. New variants of SARS-CoV-2 are expected to continue to emerge. Some variants will emerge and disappear, while others will emerge and continue to spread and may replace previous variants. - CDC

The World Health Organization has been more alarmist about this new strain as it shows up in a greater percentage of cases in Europe and other parts of the world.

While this subvariant does show 30% greater transmissibility than the original omicron strain, new studies from the U.K. and Denmark show it is not causing more severe disease and is not leading to a spike in hospitalizations.

Current vaccines and anti-viral therapies are also proving to be effective in combating BA.2.

Many medical experts also believe this subvariant will not lead to another big spike in cases, like we saw with omicron at the beginning of 2022. It is, however, likely to prolong the current omicron wave.

If you get infected with the BA.2 strain, you may not even know you have it, except for a couple new symptoms.

Doctors say they have noticed fatigue and dizziness among BA.2 patients. Those symptoms are generally not associated with other forms of coronavirus.

The most encouraging data, so far, has come from South African health officials. They were the first to detect the original omicron strain, and the first to detect this subvariant.

Dr. John Nkengasong, head of the Africa Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said while BA.2 is more transmissible, "Interestingly and very encouragingly the severity seems to be the same."

Eric Scott is the senior political director and anchor for New Jersey 101.5. You can reach him at eric.scott@townsquaremedia.com

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