Mid-Michigan health experts concerned about new COVID-19 variant

A new highly contagious variant of COVID-19 is popping up in Michigan, causing concerns among local health experts.
Published: Aug. 29, 2023 at 10:47 PM EDT
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MID-MICHIGAN (WNEM) – A new highly contagious variant of COVID-19 is popping up in Michigan, causing concerns among local health experts.

“This is a very early version of the variant and we only have nine cases isolated worldwide, two of which are in the United States,” said Dr. Nicholas Haddad, an infectious disease expert at Central Michigan University.

A new variant of COVID-19 has health experts working to learn more about it. Haddad said BA.2.86 was detected in wastewater.

“It is detected in the water, so it is more widespread than we are actually seeing clinically, which tells me that there are a lot of asymptomatic cases that are mild or undiagnosed as a specific variant,” Haddad explained.

Haddad said BA.2.86 has as many mutations as the Omicron variant, which had a huge spike in cases back in 2021.

“That’s why health experts are concerned because we can’t really predict if this will be another spike, but we do not think so because of multiple reasons,” Haddad said.

Haddad said because of widespread immunity from vaccinations and previous infections, health experts believe it is less likely this variant will cause a huge spike.

“What we can predict is likely causes positively affected by immunity. In other words, the immunity that we have works against it so that we can predict based on its molecular structure,” he said. “Until we have more cases, can we predict for sure if there will be a response to the medications and the vaccination.”

Haddad also said everyone should still worry about older people and those who have immune issues because they are most vulnerable, and while he does not believe there will be another lockdown or mask mandate, he does have some recommendations.

“I typically recommend if there’s known people who have symptoms, then definitely wear a mask if they’re going to be in a huge, big group that they don’t know for example, it is wise to do that,” he said.

A newer vaccine that has been retailored to help against more recent variants of COVID-19 is expected to roll out in mid-September.

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