The BA.2.86 coronavirus variant triples in new CDC estimates


The BA.2.86 coronavirus variant triples in new Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates

CDC urges RSV, influenza, and COVID vaccinations before holiday gatherings,

Nearly 1 in 10 new COVID-19 cases in the United States are of the BA.2.86 variant, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimated Monday, nearly triple what the agency estimated the spread of the highly mutated variant was two weeks ago.

Among the few regions with enough samples reported from testing laboratories, the prevalence of BA.2.86 is greatest in the Northeast: 13.1% of cases in the New York and New Jersey region are attributed to the strain.

Monday's numbers mark the first time the spread of BA.2.86 has risen enough to be included as an independent variable in Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates. Scientists warned of discovering the highly mutated strain for the first time during the summer.

"In previous Nowcast updates, BA.2.86 was too uncommon to be viewed separately and was grouped with other BA.2 strains," the CDC said Monday.

Before that point, officials said most new COVID-19 cases were blamed on the XBB variant and a cluster of closely related XBB descendants. This includes the HV.1 and EG.5 variants currently prevalent nationwide.

CDC estimates have wide margins of error about the extent of BA. 2.86's spread. The agency says up to 4.8% or 15.2% of the circulating SARS-CoV-2 virus could be from BA.2.86.

However, this latest estimate – 8.8% as of November 25 – is almost triple what it was on November 11, when 3.0% of new cases were estimated at BA.2.86. The CDC typically releases its changing estimates every Friday but delayed last week's release until after the Thanksgiving weekend.

"It is important to note that early predictions tend to be less reliable because they rely on examining growth trends for fewer sequences, especially as the volume of laboratory testing for SARS-CoV-2 has declined significantly over time." The agency said.

The World Health Organization also recently upgraded its classification of BA.2.86 and its descendants to a "variant of concern" following a rise in cases of the strain.

In its November 21 risk assessment, the WHO said early data on BA.2.86 suggested it did not appear to cause worse or different symptoms than previous strains, but it noted a "significant rise" in reports of BA.2.86. Last.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said it does not disagree with the World Health Organization's assessment that BA.2.86 likely poses a "low" public health risk, adding that the BA.2.86 strain does not appear to be leading to increases in infections. Or hospitalizations in the United States. "

This comes as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) begins tracking a renewed increase in indicators tracking the spread of the coronavirus (COVID-19) across the United States as winter approaches.

After weeks of slowing or being largely flat, the CDC said this month that numbers such as emergency department visits are starting to increase nationwide due to COVID-19. Almost all regions of the country are now seeing at least slight increases.

Some of the highest increases occurred in the Midwest region, covering Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Minnesota, Ohio, and Wisconsin, where trends are approaching levels not seen since early January.

Is the JN.1 variant responsible?

Since August, more than the wide range of mutations in BA.2.86 appears to be needed for the strain to gain a foothold over XBB and its descendants. Months of spread of the highly mutated variant have resulted in only a small percentage of cases worldwide.

But in recent weeks, scientists have been studying a sharp increase in the BA.2.86 strain called JN.1, which has rapidly risen to become the fastest-growing variant worldwide.

Several cases have been reported in Europe, which has seen increasing cases of BA.2.86 and its descendants.

Authorities in France said on November 13 that the JN.1 gene was largely to blame for a surge in BA.2.86 cases, rising to 10% of sequences in the country. They said that early investigations of the JN.1 virus have not shown any worrying signs compared to other infections with BA.2.86, although more in-depth analyses have been conducted.

Data from recent weeks collected from the GISAID virus database suggests that up to a third of coronavirus variants reported from laboratories in the United States were of the JN.1 variant.

"Currently, JN.1 is the most common version of BA.2.86 in the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's BA.2.86 projects, and its offshoots, such as JN.1, will continue to increase as a proportion of the SARS-CoV-2 genomic sequence," CDC spokeswoman Yasmin. Reed told CBS News in an email.

Last month, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said it expects COVID-19 tests and treatments to remain effective against JN.1, closely related to BA.2.86, apart from one change in its spike protein that early research suggests enables it to spread faster.

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