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State health department monitoring Omicron subvariant BA.2

Officials are closely watching as the variant takes hold in Europe.

The state health department is closely watching for data on the BA.2 variant of COVID-19.

BA.2 is a more infectious subvariant of Omicron. Kirby Kruger is section chief for the pathology section of disease control at the North Dakota Department of Health. He says there have been three Omicron subvariants – BA.1, BA.2 and BA.3. He says the department is watching the spread of BA.2 in Europe, and that the variant is on track to quickly become the dominant variant in the United States.

Kruger says what they’re seeing now is that because BA.2 is more contagious, it is more likely to cause infection in those who haven’t been exposed. But the good news is that BA.2 so far doesn’t appear to cause more severe illness than the original BA.1 variant, both in vaccinated and boosted populations as well as those who just recovered from COVID. At the height of its Omicron surge, more than 12,000 North Dakotans had active COVID, and those cases have dropped off. Kruger says that may work to the state’s advantage.

"We have had a lot of people in North Dakota who were infected during that peak. Those individuals are going to have some antibody - now, it's not going to be perfect, and there's still a possibility for reinfections. But hopefully those will be rare, and the data that's emerging is showing that it seems to be a very rare event to get reinfected."

Kruger says a lot of North Dakotans have also been vaccinated and boosted against COVID-19, and vaccines remain the most effective protection against serious illness and death. He says vaccines, along with widely available testing and therapeutics put the state in a good position moving forward.

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