Health officials say the subvariant of omicron known as BA.2 accounts for about one-fourth of COVID-19 cases sequenced in Washington.
The Seattle Times reports the subvariant has steadily spread in the state, and across the country and Europe, but researchers are hopeful any potential wave of the new strain won't cause as many infections, hospitalizations and deaths as the original version of the variant did.
The new subvariant, which emerged in the United Kingdom in December, was identified in Washington in January and has remained at fairly low levels since then, state epidemiologist Dr. Scott Lindquist said last week. Now early data from the state Department of Health and the UW Medicine clinical virology lab show the proportion of cases involving the variant has increased over the past month or so.
“It’s been sort of slowly creeping up over the last six weeks,” Alex Greninger, assistant director of UW Medicine’s virology lab and an assistant professor of lab medicine and pathology, said in a Tuesday statement.
While virologists don’t yet have a clear timeline for a potential rise in cases, Greninger encouraged residents to pay attention to their local COVID trends and assured people that vaccinations — particularly booster shots — will continue to protect against severe infection.