Just a little over a month after major cities in the Philippines were placed under Alert Level 1 of quarantine restrictions for the pandemic, another COVID subvariant appears from its own Omicron variant threatening the freedom and possibly maskless future. Known as stealth omicron, the COVID subvariant BA.2 has been making rounds around the world. Stay cautious when going outside and interacting, know more about the BA.2 Omicron subvariant.
What Are COVID Variants and How do They Form?
When we thought nothing could be worse than a pandemic brought by COVID, variants keep on mutating placing us in a never-ending cycle of surges, deaths, and isolation. Whilst our scientists are still studying COVID, weeks and months of research are always interrupted due to mutations developing one after another.
RNA viruses, just like the Coronavirus or COVID are a type of virus that has the nature to evolve. These transformations or mutations in the virus could be brought by the changes in geographic separation and time resulting in multiple mutations of COVID around the world.
That explains why COVID, as long as it is around, multiple mutations appear resulting in variants and subvariants of the virus making some more transmissible and fatal than others.
Few Things We Should Understand About Variants and Viruses:
As explained earlier, viruses mutate due to location and time factors. So to further discuss that, let’s take a look few more things to help us understand the COVID Variants.
1. Viruses are always changing
We evolve as time goes by, and so do viruses. A few months into the pandemic, we haven’t even processed the shock that COVID brought and yet a new variant comes in reportedly more transmissible and fatal to the elderly, children, etc.
However, with the constant evolution of the virus, experts believe to see an accumulation of changes over time to help them find and stop the reasons for mutations.
2. Variants of COVID are not new
Variants are just different versions of the various that underwent a genetic change. This change differentiates the variant from the original sequence of the COVID-19. Therefore these variants are not entirely different from their original form and still lines up the family tree of Coronavirus creating a lineage.
Strains, however, are a different case, and scientists rather not use this term when reporting about COVID mutations. Virus strains have very different properties when compared and has significant distinction in the behavior of the virus of the proteins it carries.
3. Multiple factors in the evolution of the virus
Albeit certain, scientists have some theories as to why and how these variants appeared. Some other factors that scientists believe may be the reason to the mutation are chronic infections and population immunity.
Researchers saw that when COVID infects someone, the virus picks up multiple changes with individual patients that were suffering from “long COVID” that is now considered a chronic infection. The virus continued to live on these patients’ bodies for months and picking up mutation as it did so.
Viruses mutations not only affect the unvaccinated but even the vaccinated ones. Just like some other infections, the virus in COVID-19 learns to shake off certain treatments. One of which is where antibodies are extracted and given to other extremely ill patients, this procedure is called convalescent plasma. Even with the intention of shielding the person through antibodies, the virus might have been able to produce a hyper-mutated variant that would be optimizing its replication within a host.
4. Developing Vaccines to Keep up with the Variants
In the Philippines, you might already be aware of our current vaccination status; 1st dose, 2nd dose, and a booster shot. Despite not having all Filipinos vaccinated yet, making sure that you get all these is important to keep you protected from the known variants of COVID. As they say, prevention is better than cure.
Vaccines have different protections covered, some more effective than others. As you may noticed, preference in the vaccine have developed in our community. But whatever your vaccine brand is, after it was announced that roaming variants have appeared, booster shots were developed and produced as fast as manufacturers can.
The reason for this is to update our immunity against variants of the virus. In easier terms, at first we thought that two (2) doses of the COVID Vaccine is enough, but with further study and developing variants, scientists learn to upgrade our protection by adding a booster shot. And so on, and so forth.
Accordingly, we should expect more of these in the future while the total prevention for COVID is still on the works.
Now that we’ve tackled some matters about the generic descriptions of variants that COVID developed, we hope that further understanding the virus mutations could educate more people to avoid misinformation. Now, let us know more about the current talk about of the world; the omicron subvariant – BA.2.
The BA.2 Omicron Subvariant
Felt like yesterday when omicron made fast mutations that caused fear among Filipinos and placed us in a strict quarantine guideline due to the surging number of infection. And now we hear that it was able to mutate and create a subvariant of its own.
This Omicron subvariant known as BA.2 is also called as stealth omicron. Stealth, or secret, this variant has genetic mutations that are difficult to distinguish from the Delta Variant when compared to Omicron Variant using PCR Tests. It is detectable but hard to identify since its genetics looks like the Delta Variant.
Stealth omicron or the BA2. Subvariant is 30-60% more transmissible as compared to other variants causing a risk in the unprotected and nonimmune population. This could cause another major outbreak especially in the Philippines where human interaction has almost came back to normal. On the other hand, amidst its transmissibility, it is not as severe.
What are the symptoms of Stealth Omicron or BA.2?
The symptoms produced by the BA.2 Omicron subvariant is actually not as different from other symptoms, such as;
- Runny Nose
However, these common symptoms make it difficult for people to differentiate between flu or fever and other viruses. Even the Omicron variant was able to look like a regular allergy by making allergic reactions one of its symptoms.
So just to be sure, when in doubt of having COVID symptoms, get yourself tested to find out and prevent the spread within your household by putting yourself in isolation and taking medication.
Taking Precautions for the Spread of the Virus
Whatever virus may it be, let’s all develop a consciousness of avoiding transmission by protecting ourselves and those around us. Just like a simple flu or fever, it is best to cover up your sneeze when with other people to prevent the spread of saliva droplets. COVID, despite causing a whirlwind around the world that forever changed our lives, could be treated as yet another virus in a few easy steps:
- Wear Mask When Sick
- Cover Mouth When Sneezing or Coughing
- Avoid Touching Others
- Regularly Disinfect
- Getting Checked-Up or Tested when Showing Symptoms
- Taking Proper Medication
- Ensuring Enough Rest
- Frequently Washing Your Hands