HomeLifestyleHealth & FitnessIsrael reports an unknown COVID-19 variant with a "unique genetic signature"

Israel reports an unknown COVID-19 variant with a “unique genetic signature”

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It is believed to be a combination of Omicron BA.1 and BA.2 subvariants, according to a report from the Health Ministry.

During routine PCR testing for all travelers entering the nation at Ben-Gurion airport, two cases of a previously unknown coronavirus subtype were detected.

Mild symptoms such as fever, headaches, and muscle discomfort were recorded in those who were infected, and they did not require additional medical attention.

The Ministry of Health has stated that it will continue to monitor the situation at the airport and will offer updates as they become available.

Following the announcement, the PCR tests were sequenced at Shamir Medical Center (Assaf Harofeh), which issued a statement clarifying the facts.

“Analysis of the data revealed a unique genetic signature that combines mutations originating in the BA.1 strain and… the BA.2 strain,” said the medical center’s spokesperson. 

“It is important to note that the variant’s detection is only possible through deep sequencing. The data was immediately transmitted to the Health Ministry and Central Virus Laboratory for verification.”

While little is known about this mutation since it has yet to be discovered anywhere else in the world, leading Hadassah Medical Center physician Prof. Dror Mevorach replied to the news by reminding everyone that “every two to three weeks there is a new variant.”

“As long as it does not make up a significant part of new infections, it will not be defined as a variant of concern and has little significance,” he added. 

In view of increased coronavirus infection rates in various parts of the world, particularly China and Hong Kong, Prime Minister Naftali Bennett convened a meeting on Wednesday afternoon. Health Minister Nitzan Horowitz, as well as other senior health authorities such as Health Ministry Director-General Nachman Ash, COVID-19 Commissioner Salman Zarka, and the commander of the Home Front Command, attended the meeting.

The existing COVID-19 data from Israel was compared to that of the aforementioned countries, as well as the currently accessible data on both the BA.2 strain and the new merged strain.

The meeting concluded that no new limitations will be imposed at this time, but that the obligation to wear walking masks in closed public venues will remain in place and will be examined again closer to the Passover holiday.

In addition, ongoing efforts will be made to educate the public about the need of receiving all three vaccines in areas where uptake is still low, and plans will be established in the event of another wave, if one occurs in the near future.

In the US, daily Covid instances have been declining for weeks, but health experts warn that this could reverse soon due to wastewater statistics and the situation overseas, as well as the fact that the Omicron ‘stealth’ strain currently accounts for 23% of all cases.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) cautioned on Tuesday that during the first ten days of March, one-third of wastewater sample sites showed an increase in cases.

Image Credit: Getty

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