WHO tracking new omicron sub-variants amid US BA.2 surge

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The World Health Organization (WHO) said Monday that it is tracking two new omicron sub-variants. 

The agency has added BA.4 and BA.5 descendent lineages to its tracking list.

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According to Reuters, the WHO said it had begun tracking the sub-variants because of “additional mutations that need to be further studied.” 

Only a few dozen cases have been reported to the GISAID database. 

The U.K. Health Security Agency said last week that work was underway to “precisely define the phylogeny” of the variants. 

FILE - Workers walk over London Bridge towards the City of London financial district during the morning rush hour, in London, Monday, Jan. 24, 2022. 

FILE – Workers walk over London Bridge towards the City of London financial district during the morning rush hour, in London, Monday, Jan. 24, 2022. 
(AP Photo/Matt Dunham, File)

In an April 8 update, the organization wrote that BA.4 had been found in South Africa, Denmark, Botswana, England and Scotland. 

All BA.5 cases were in South Africa, but Botswana’s ministry of health reportedly said it had identified four cases of both BA.4 and BA.5 among individuals aged 30 to 50 years old who were fully vaccinated and experiencing mild symptoms. 

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According to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the highly transmissible BA.2 variant now makes up 72.2% of U.S. cases, surpassing BA.1.1 which accounts for 25.3%. 

While hospitalizations, cases and deaths in the U.S. have fallen markedly since the winter’s initial omicron surge, cases have begun to rebound as mask requirements have lifted. 

Lawmakers battle over COVID funding

The Biden administration has been leaning on Congress to approve additional pandemic relief funding, saying money for fourth COVID-19 vaccine shots is gone. 

Dr. Ashish Jha, the new White House coronavirus response coordinator, told “CBS Mornings” on Monday that if the coronavirus situation in America becomes “substantially worse,” U.S. health officials could return to looking at things like masking.

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“When we look into the summer and fall, we all want to make sure there are plenty of vaccines available for people, that we continue to have treatments available for the American people,” he said. “None of that is going to be possible without additional funding from Congress. And, that’s why I remain very confident that Congress is going to step up and do its part … But, it’s really pretty essential that they do that.” 

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