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'Same General Family': The New Omicron Sub-Variant Not Ringing Alarms In Chicago Just Yet

CHICAGO (CBS) -- As the omicron surge reaches its peak, researchers have discovered an Omicron sub-variant.

Some are calling it "stealth Omicron." CBS 2 Investigator Megan Hickey is asking COVID-19 researchers and Chicago's health commissioner.

Dr. Allison Arwady, Commissioner of the Chicago Department of Public Health (CDPH) said we do have the ability to detect the sub variant, but so far it has not been detected it here in Chicago. And right now, researchers are saying it's too soon to sound the alarms.

"They are both from the same general family."

COVID-19 researcher Ramon Lorenzo-Redondo with Northwestern's Feinberg School of Medicine said it's a "sibling" of the original omicron variant and they're watching the Omicron BA.2 sub-variant closely but said it's still too soon know about how contagious it is.

"It's too early to know the outcomes to know anything about it," he said.

"It's a slight variation in terms of what is being picked up, but I want to be really, really clear. It has not even been classified as a variant of interest yet," Arwady said.

Dr. Arwady explained that there are levels of classification: First is a "variant of interest." Second is a "variant of concern" and third is a "variant of high consequence."

"This is not even on that scale yet. So we have not seen evidence that this is making people sicker we've not seen evidence it's behaving differently I get that the world is very attune to variants recently," Arwady said. "But I want you to know that we have the ability to detect that sub variant here in Chicago just like we do, other types of variants and I've not seen anything at this point."

Dr. Lorenzo-Redondo agrees there's no cause for concern yet. And the number priority should be reducing overall transmission.

"Nothing to be alarmed so far because we should be already pretty alarmed," he said. "Because we have a very high incidence so that is the main thing that we have to drive down."

According to federal data, the omicron variant now represents 99.9% of all COVID-19 cases sequenced by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.


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