According to health officials, it is only the fourth reported case in the United States and was found in samples from either people or wastewater.
Researchers at Houston Methodist reportedly identified the variant and are concerned it could cause a spike in cases.
Global disease experts with the World Health Organization are monitoring the BA.2.86 variant and said it looks much different than the original version of the omicron variant.
According to experts, their main concern is that the new variant carries 36 different spike protein mutations or 36 different variations. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, based on current information, existing tests used to detect and medications used to treat COVID-19 will continue to be effective with this variant. Scientists are also evaluating the effectiveness of the updated COVID-19 vaccine, the CDC said.
As of Monday, only a small number of cases of the new variant have reportedly been identified globally. It has spread to 11 different countries, officials said.
Experts said early reports indicate this variant may be less contagious than other variants and that vaccinated Americans should have some protection against it.
“The current increases in cases and hospitalizations in the United States are likely being driven by infections with XBB lineage viruses, not the new BA.2.86 variant,” the CDC’s website said.
When the new variant was first discovered, researchers said they feared it might become as powerful as the omicron variant, but so far, officials said that does not appear to be the case. At this point, there is no evidence that this variant is causing more severe illness.
As far as the new COVID booster shot goes, the FDA said it is expected to be approved by them and signed off on by the CDC as early as the middle of September.
Researchers said it’s too soon to tell how much protection the new booster will offer in fighting off BA.2.86.
The CDC encourages people to take the following precautions and measures:
- Get your COVID-19 vaccines, as recommended.
- Stay home if you are sick.
- Get tested for COVID-19, if needed.
- Seek treatment if you have COVID-19 and are at high risk of getting very sick.
- If you choose to wear a mask, wear a high-quality one that fits well over your nose and mouth.
- Improve ventilation.
- Wash your hands.