1 in 3 new COVID cases caused by new omicron subvariant, CDC data shows

Published: May. 4, 2022 at 2:46 PM CDT
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(CNN) - There is new information on a variation of omicron that is causing more COVID-19 cases in the U.S.

The omicron variant offshoot, a highly contagious spinoff of BA.2, is gaining steam in the U.S., caused more than one in three new COVID-19 cases in the U.S. last week.

That is up from one in four the week before, according to the latest numbers from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“We’re set up for another big wave in the summer. I think that’s quite possible,” said Dr. Peter Hotez, Dean of the National School of Tropical Medicine at the Baylor College School of Medicine.

Cases of the variant spinoff are not evenly spread through the U.S. Last week, the CDC estimated it caused around 62% of cases in the region that includes New York and New Jersey, as well as in Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands.

The CDC estimated it caused about 40% of cases in the mid-Atlantic states and more than 36% of cases in the South.

It’s least common in the Pacific Northwest.

Researchers believe several omicron subvariants have a mutation that helps the virus bind more tightly to our cells and hide from the antibodies that try to block the virus from infecting us.

“The incubation period, the period from when you become infected with the virus to when you start showing symptoms with these omicron subvariants, is pretty quick,” Hotez said. “It’s around two to four days.”

In a paper published in the medical journal JAMA, Food and Drug Administration officials say current vaccines could be updated yearly to target specific coronavirus variants going around.

They said COVID-19 shots could be administered every year and decisions will need to be made by this summer on future vaccine composition and who should be eligible for another COVID-19 shot in the fall.

The FDA officials wrote that this coming fall and winter, three factors may put the U.S. at an additional risk of COVID-19: waning immunity, seasonal waves of more coronavirus spread, and the virus further mutating and leading to new variants.

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