According to the US health authorities, a new, heavily mutated Covid variant is more likely to lead to infections in people who have already been vaccinated.
The recently discovered BA.2.86 variant of Covid-19 could be more likely to cause infections in people who are already infected and already vaccinated than older variants, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said on Wednesday.
However, the CDC said it is too early to say if this will result in a more serious infection than other variants.
However, due to the high number of mutations discovered in this lineage, there have been concerns about the impact on immunity from vaccines and previous infections.
“Almost the entire US population has antibodies to SARS-CoV-2 due to vaccination, a previous infection, or both, and it is likely that these antibodies will continue to provide some protection against serious illness from this variant,” the agency said .
The announcement comes as two Americans have tested positive for BA.2.86 and cases of another new variant, EG.5 or Eris, are increasing.
The graph above shows the percentage of positive Covid cases (brown line) and the weekly number of new Covid hospital admissions (blue bars).
Americans wear face masks while waiting in line to vote in the 2020 presidential election. Some colleges and businesses are reinstating mask requirements as Covid cases surge across the US
However, the CDC said the current spike in US hospitalizations is unlikely to be due to BA.2.86.
The most recently updated Covid vaccines target strains of the XBB Omicron variant. However, BA.286 has many more mutations, and the CDC compares it to something similar to the Delta and Omicron variants.
“The large number of mutations in this variant raises concerns that, compared to other newer variants, existing immunity may be more evasive from vaccines and previous infections,” the CDC said.
“For example, mutational analysis suggests that the difference may be as large or larger than that between BA.2 and XBB.1.5, which circulated almost a year apart.”
“However, virus samples are not yet widely available for more reliable laboratory testing of antibodies, and it is too early to know the true impact on immunity.”
The U.S. test positivity rate — the proportion of swabs that come back positive — has risen from one in 15 in the week ended July 15 to one in eight through August 12, according to the latest CDC data.
This means that test positivity has reached its highest level in more than a year. In several states, including Texas, Arkansas and Louisiana, every sixth Covid swab has been positive in the last week.
With ordinary Americans no longer testing en masse like earlier in the pandemic — only 40,000 swabs are reported to the CDC each week — it has become more difficult to catch new outbreaks early.
But all the metrics suggest infections are rising fast.
The map above shows the percent positivity rate in each state over the past week. In several states, including Texas, Arkansas and Louisiana, every sixth Covid swab has been positive in the last week
The graphic above shows Covid variants in the United States. It shows how EG.5, an emerging variant, has been growing rapidly across the country
From July 15 to August 12, hospitalizations increased to 12,613 from 7,175, although they are still three times lower than at this time last year.
That concern, coupled with a spike in positive tests across the U.S., has prompted an Atlanta college and Hollywood studio Lionsgate to once again mandate face masks.
But as Covid rates rise in the US – hospitalizations are up for the fifth straight week – they remain at near historic lows.
Test positivity – the proportion of tests that come up positive for the virus – has doubled in the US in the last month and searches for Covid symptoms on Google have surged in recent weeks.
Lionsgate Studios is asking office staff to don face coverings and retest as hospital rates for Covid soar in week five
A major Hollywood studio has reintroduced the Covid mask requirement for fear of rising virus rates and a new heavily mutated variant
But doctors on the ground say that while they are seeing a surge in patients with the virus, their symptoms are milder than at any point previously in the pandemic.
dr Aaron Glatt, a paramedic at Mount Sinai in New York City, said the fact that two cases have been confirmed in the US is a sign that “many more” are not being treated.
When asked if there were more cases of BA.2.86 in the US, he previously told : “It’s certainly very possible.” “It would be surprising if it didn’t spread.”
Regarding the number of cases that have already occurred in the United States, he said: “It is certainly possible that there are dozens of cases, and it is certainly very possible that there are more.”
“The question is how important is that.” Does this variant have a survival advantage over other tribes?
The ability to evade vaccinations could be that advantage.
So far, three other countries – Israel, Denmark and the United Kingdom – have detected the strain, but most countries don’t have the infrastructure to detect new variants.
The new variant has yet to be discovered in Japan, but official data from the country shows cases and hospitalizations are increasing.
Latest data shows there were 22,000 Covid patients in the country’s hospitals as of August 16, double the 10,000 from the week before.
However, that was still below the 35,000 reported at the same time last year.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the World Health Organization (WHO) have both said they are tracking the mutated strain.
Also this weekend, former Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Commissioner Dr. Scott Gottlieb, alarmed and said he was “quite concerned” about the new strain and that it might be more transmissible than other variants currently in circulation.
However, doctors are still advising Americans to refrain from booster vaccinations despite these rising cases.
dr Jennifer Nuzzo, director of the Pandemic Center at Brown University School of Public Health, told ABC News, “Unless you’re at high risk and exposure, it makes sense at this point to wait a few weeks for the updated vaccine .” should be okay.