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WHO, US national health agency tracking new COVID-19 variant

The US national health agency and the WHO are tracking a new COVID-19 virus, BA.2.86, detected in the US, Denmark, and Israel.

HQ Team

August 18, 2023: The US national health agency and the WHO are tracking a new COVID-19 virus, BA.2.86, detected in the US, Denmark, and Israel.

“The CDC (Centres for Disease Control and Prevention)  is gathering more information and will share more about this lineage as we learn it,” the agency tweeted on X.

“As we learn more about BA.2.86, CDC’s advice on protecting yourself from COVID-19 remains the same.”

The cumulative COVID-19 hospitalizations in the US rose 14.3% to 10,320 in the week ended August 5, while the death toll climbed by seven percentage points to 8.3% compared to the previous week, according to a CDC report.

According to another tweet on X, the World Health Organisation designated BA.2.86 as a “variant under monitoring”  due to its many variants.

“So far, only a few sequences of the variant have been reported from a handful of countries,” the global health agency stated.

‘More data needed’

“The WHO needed more data to understand this variant and the extent of its spread, but the number of mutations warrants attention. WHO will update countries and the public as we learn more.”

The WHO is tracking three variants of interest and seven variants under monitoring at the moment, according to another tweet.

“WHO continues to call for better surveillance, sequencing, and reporting of the (variant) as this virus continues to circulate and evolve.” 

Omicron (B.1.1.529), a fifth variant of SARS-CoV-2 was first reported to the World Health Organization (WHO) by the Network for Genomics Surveillance in South Africa on November 24, 2021.

It was first detected in Botswana and has spread to become the predominant variant in circulation around the world.

After the B.1.1.529 variant, several subvariants of Omicron have emerged including, BA.1, BA.2BA.3BA.4, and BA.5.

Since October 2022, two subvariants of BA.5 called BQ.1 and BQ.1.1 have emerged.

WHO comments

Although COVID-19 is no longer a global health emergency, it remains a global health threat, WHO director-general Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said at the inagural meet of G20 Health Ministers meet in India.

“Just yesterday, WHO classified a new variant with a large number of mutations, BA.2.86, as a variant under monitoring, highlighting once again the need for all countries to maintain surveillance,” he told delegates.

“This is also why we are continuing the ACT Accelerator, and why we continue to seek the support of G20 countries for it. COVID-19 has taught us all an important lesson: that when health is at risk, everything is at risk.

“There are encouraging signs that the world is learning the painful lessons of the pandemic.”

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