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WHO: Two Omicron Sub-Variants Driving S. Africa COVID Spike
By Staff, Agencies
Two new omicron sub-variants are driving an increase in reported COVID cases in South Africa, the World Health Organization said Wednesday, stressing the importance of testing to monitor virus mutations and spread.
The heavily mutated and highly transmissible omicron variant of COVID-19, which was first detected in southern Africa in November last year and rapidly spread globally, is now the dominant variant, accounting for almost all new cases.
Omicron has long been known to have several sub-variants, with BA.2 by far the most dominant.
But now the South African scientists who first identified omicron are pointing to two other omicron sub-variants, BA.4 and BA.5, "as the reason for a spike in cases" in the country, WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus told a press conference.
In its latest epidemiological report, the UN health agency said the sub-lineages "have acquired a few additional mutations that may impact their characteristics."
Tedros said Wednesday that it was "too soon to know whether these new sub-variants can cause more severe disease than other omicron sub-variants."
However, he said, "early data suggest vaccination remains protective against severe disease and death."
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