COVID-19

New Omicron strain detected in Victoria

State health authorities revealed on Friday they had detected the subvariant, believed to be either BA.4 or BA.5, in wastewater samples taken from the Tullamarine catchment. In his daily statement, chief health officer Brett Sutton said the Department of Health was closely monitoring the new detections.The subvariant has previously been detected in a small number of cases in South Africa, Botswana, Belgium, Denmark, the United Kingdom and Germany.There are currently no known significant epidemiological differences observed between the new strain and the current BA.2 strain.Prof Sutton said the new variant didn’t come as a surprise to experts. “Not surprised. But not worried,” he wrote on Twitter on Friday evening. “The point with all the newly emergent lineages is that when they out-compete existing variants, we get upward pressure on cases and more risk of getting infected.”Prof Sutton urged Victorians to ensure they were “up-to-date with vaccines”, wear quality masks indoors and test when required.The World Health Organisation has recently stated there has so far been no change seen in the severity or transmissibility of virus.In its weekly epidemiological update, published on April 12, the WHO said both BA.4 and BA.5 appear to have additional mutations in the spike region and unique mutations outside of spike.“WHO is working with scientists to further assess the characteristics of these lineages and their public health implications,” it read. “WHO recommends countries to continue surveillance, where possible, and rapid data sharing on publicly available databases.”University of South Australia chair of biostatistics Adrian Esterman said there was no current cause for concern.Professor Esterman, who is a former World Health Organisation epidemiologist, said experts were still examining the strains. “These appear to be different combinations of BA.1, BA.2 and BA.3,” he said. “(They are) potentially more transmissible, but unlikely to be any more pathogenic.”

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