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2 cases of 'stealth' omicron found in Florida, reports say

BA.2 subvariant found in 69-year-old woman, 32-year-old man
COVID-19 testing-line in Miami
Posted at 12:52 PM, Feb 02, 2022
and last updated 2022-02-02 19:25:36-05

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. — Cases of the highly-contagious omicron variant continue to decrease in South Florida after reaching a peak last month.

The CDC reported Wednesday that Florida had 16,883 new COVID-19 cases compared with 37,561 last week and the record 77,052 on Jan. 8.

However, the latest figures show that case levels continue to be substantially higher than at their lowest levels before last year's surge from the delta variant.

RELATED: Omicron drives US deaths higher than in fall's delta wave

All of this comes after reports this week indicate that the new BA.2 substrain of omicron, dubbed "stealth" omicron, has been detected in Florida.

It received this moniker since it is harder to detect than the original version of omicron because of specific genetic traits.

BA.2 was detected in Texas and Washington state last month after it took hold in Denmark in December, making up around half of the European country's omicron cases.

Global data shows that BA.2 is in a tug-of-war with its cousin, BA.1, in becoming the dominant strain in several countries, including the United Kingdom and Singapore.

Scientists say the omicron descendant is gaining ground in some parts of the world and is maybe 1 1/2 times more contagious than the original omicron variant.

Health officials are keeping their eyes on the variant, which has been found in more than 50 countries.

Citing GISAID, a public database used by scientists to track the spread of infectious diseases, the Tampa Times reported that two cases of the BA.2 subvariant have been identified in Florida in a seven-day span.

The report stated that the people who tested positive for "stealth" omicron were a 69-year-old woman on Jan. 11 and a 32-year-old man on Jan. 16.

It is unclear in which Florida counties the two people tested positive for the BA.2 substrain.

The Florida Department of Health said Wednesday they were aware of a sequenced case of BA.2 uploaded to GISAID by a laboratory contracted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

However, Florida health officials did not elaborate further.

COVID in China, Jan. 25, 2022
A medical worker wearing protective gear collects a sample from a resident at a coronavirus test site in Xichen District in Beijing, Tuesday, Jan. 25, 2022. Hong Kong has already suspended many overseas flights and requires arrivals be quarantined, similar to mainland China's "zero-tolerance" approach to the virus that has placed millions under lockdowns and mandates mask wearing, rigorous case tracing and mass testing.

Infectious disease experts say there's a lot they still don't know, including whether it causes more severe disease.

Danish scientists reported this week that preliminary information suggests it could be more contagious.

In the meantime, doctors continue to urge people to get vaccinated and abide by the usual coronavirus precautions.

Portions of this article courtesy of the Associated Press