The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found a new COVID-19 variant in August. In the last two weeks, cases of this variant have tripled.
According to the CDC, nearly 10% of new COVID-19 cases in the U.S. are now from the BA.2.86 variant, with the northeast leading in cases.
In New York and New Jersey, the variant accounts for 13.1% of cases, while in the Midwest (including Michigan, Indiana, and Illinois), it's responsible for 9.8% of cases. On the West Coast, California is experiencing the variant in 5.3% of cases, CDC data shows.
“BA.2.86 is projected to comprise between 5%-15% of currently circulating variants in the United States,” the CDC stated. “Currently, our best estimate indicates about 9% of circulating viruses may be BA.2.86."
This is the first time the CDC has singled out BA.2.86 as a standalone variant due to its increased prevalence. Scientists had initially identified this highly mutated strain in August, and in earlier updates, BA.2.86 was grouped with other BA.2 strains because it was uncommon.
However, the latest estimate as of Nov. 25 is almost three times higher at 8.8%, compared to the 3.0% estimate on Nov. 11 for the prevalence of BA.2.86 in new cases.
Cases of BA.2.86 have also surged in multiple countries, leading the World Health Organization to classify it as a "variant of interest.”
According to the WHO, data shows that BA.2.86 doesn't seem to cause more severe or different symptoms than earlier strains or target any age group in particular.
The CDC does note that early predictions may be less reliable since they depend on smaller data sets, and the number of lab tests for COVID-19 has decreased since the height of the pandemic.
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