BA.2 Strain Is ‘More Virulent and More Contagious' Than Omicron

South Florida infectious disease doctors watching omicron subvariant closely

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Just as omicron is releasing us from its grip, infectious disease experts see another potential COVID-19 strain on the horizon.

It’s a subvariant of omicron called BA.2. New data shows it could be worse than omicron.

“We’re not anxious right now, but we are watching and being careful because we know this is a more virulent version than omicron, and if it weren’t for other mitigating factors, it would be horrific,” said Dr. Aileen Marty, Infectious Disease Specialist at Florida International University.

Dr. Marty worries BA.2 could end up putting more people in the hospital if it starts to spread quickly. Right now omicron is still the dominant strain in the U.S. and Florida, but if it starts to double in the coming days, and again a few days later, it could spell trouble.

Dr. Marty said data suggests it could be worse than the delta wave for those who are unvaccinated. The vaccine and other medical advancements could help keep the strain at bay.

“What’s mitigating it is the high rate of immunity in population, better understanding and better medications and techniques to reduce hospital stays when they happen and reduce risk of complications,” said Dr. Marty.

Meanwhile, vaccinations have stalled across Florida. The state set a new low last week with fewer than 35,000 residents receiving a shot, with about half of those getting their first shot. Still, more than 5.4 million Floridians remain unvaccinated, a group most vulnerable to BA.2.

“If you’re unvaccinated it’s very much like acquiring delta, it’s much more likely to put you in the hospital than BA.1, the original omicron,” said Dr. Marty.

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