Los Angeles Times


Subvariant BA.2.75, spreading in India, may increase risks caused by reinfectio­n.

- By Rong-Gong Lin II and Luke Money

Even as Los Angeles County remains in the grips of a coronaviru­s surge fueled by the Omicron subvariant BA.5, another strain that’s causing concern in India has been found locally.

Designated BA.2.75, the subvariant is being monitored by the World Health Organizati­on.

As of Thursday, six cases had been identified in the U.S., including two in California, with one of those in L.A. County, according to Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer.

“It does appear to have additional mutations that facilitate spread and evade immunity,” she said during a briefing. “And it’s been spreading fairly rapidly across India.”

Scientists are exploring whether the emergence of BA.2.75 could prolong or exacerbate the surge fueled by BA.5 — another highly infectious member of the Omicron family.

“Whenever there’s an identified new variant of concern — or, in this case, a lineage that’s under monitoring — we do need to proceed with caution, as it takes time to better understand the risks that may be posed by this newly mutated virus,” Ferrer said.

Over the week that ended Saturday, BA.5 made up an estimated 65% of new coronaviru­s cases nationwide, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“I hope BA.5 sticks around, because then people will have some reprieve, and then the curves go down,” said Dr. Peter ChinHong, an expert in infectious diseases at UC San Francisco. “But if BA.2.75 [spreads], that adds another variable in the mix.”

Such an occurrence, he said, would raise the possibilit­y that “you’ll see a whole bunch of people passing different things back and forth, and they’ll get some

thing that they didn’t get before.”

A dizzying number of subvariant­s has emerged since Omicron first landed on California’s shores around Thanksgivi­ng.

Since April, three subvariant­s — BA.2, BA.2.12.1 and BA.5 — are estimated to be the dominant strain nationwide.

That has made it possible for people to get reinfected within a relatively short period of time. Since the start of the pandemic, some people have reported getting infected two, three or even four times.

“It takes time to determine with certainty the ability of a newly mutated virus to evade immunity protection­s to easily infect others and to cause severe illness,” Ferrer said. “Until we have a sense of how the virus is interactin­g with us with these new variants, using sensible precaution­s remains a very good idea.”

Previously, scientists suspected that people infected with the coronaviru­s had several months of particular­ly strong immunity to protect against reinfectio­n. But now, some patients are reporting getting reinfected within weeks.

One of them is Xavier Becerra. The secretary of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services tested positive in Sacramento in mid-June — 3½ weeks after testing positive while visiting Berlin.

Getting reinfected with the coronaviru­s may increase long-term health consequenc­es. Even one infection is associated with increased risk of death and other symptoms.

Reinfectio­n has been associated with additional risk of death, hospitaliz­ation and adverse health outcomes, affecting the cardiovasc­ular, gastrointe­stinal, neurologic­al and renal systems.

It has also been associated with an increased risk of diabetes, fatigue and mental health disorders, according to a preprint study written by scientists with the Washington University School of Medicine and the Veterans Affairs St. Louis Healthcare System.

The additional risk of reinfectio­n was seen in both unvaccinat­ed and vaccinated people and was not only present in the acute phase of illness but persisted in the months after the initial infection had resolved.

Most risks “were still evident at six months after reinfectio­n,” said the report, which surveyed the medical records of veterans, including nearly 39,000 people who had two or more coronaviru­s infections, 257,000 who had one infection and more than 5 million without a record of infection.

“Assessment of the cumulative risks of repeated infection showed that the risk and burden increased in a graded fashion according to the number of infections,” the report said. “The constellat­ion of findings show that reinfectio­n adds nontrivial risks of all-cause mortality, hospitaliz­ation and adverse health outcomes in the acute and post-acute phase of the reinfectio­n.”

 ?? Irfan Khan Los Angeles Times ?? SCIENTISTS are exploring whether the BA.2.75 subvariant could exacerbate the surge fueled by BA.5. “Using sensible precaution­s remains a very good idea,” said L.A. County Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer.
Irfan Khan Los Angeles Times SCIENTISTS are exploring whether the BA.2.75 subvariant could exacerbate the surge fueled by BA.5. “Using sensible precaution­s remains a very good idea,” said L.A. County Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer.

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