On Your Side Safety Check: New COVID-19 report causing confusion

Published: Sep. 6, 2023 at 3:49 PM CDT
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BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WBRC) - WBRC FOX6 News is On Your Side and getting answers from an infectious diseases expert about some viral confusion over a recent report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The report, released last week, is about a newly discovered strain of SARS-CoV-2 labeled BA.2.86. The report calls this strain “notable” because “it has multiple genetic differences from previous versions of SARS-CoV-2.”

Click here to view the report.

It goes on to say, “BA.2.86 may be more capable of causing infection in people who have previously had COVID-19 or who have received COVID-19 vaccines.” Researchers add more context later in the report, saying, “The large number of mutations in this variant raises concerns of greater escape from existing immunity from vaccines and previous infections compared with other recent variants.”

Dr. Paul Geopfert, an infectious diseases physician at UAB and Director of the Alabama Vaccine Research Clinic, says this means people who have been vaccinated or infected with COVID should pay closer attention to this strain.

“What they’re saying is that this strain is more likely to be resistant to your immunity than prior strains, but that doesn’t mean if you’ve been previously infected or vaccinated that you are going to be at increased risk of infection. That would be highly unusual and there’s not evidence of that,” explained Dr. Geopfert.

Right now, there are two confirmed cases of BA.2.86 in the entire country, while 9 have been reported globally. The CDC said it’s too early to known how transmissible this variant is or whether it causes more severe disease than other variants.

Dr. Geopfert suggests people who are immunocompromised to get the updated COVID booster when it comes out this month, and to consider wearing a mask while in public.

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