A new strain of the coronavirus related to the original omicron variant is spreading in Shasta County.
The new BA.2 variant is more contagious than its predecessor, original omicron — which caused widespread infection throughout the North State from late December to February, according to county health data.
However, the short-term symptoms associated with BA.2 COVID-19 cases tend to be less severe, Shasta County Public Health said on Wednesday.
At least four people contracted the BA.2 virus in February, Public Health spokesperson Amy Koslosky said.
That’s the findings of state labs that tested COVID-19 samples taken from Shasta County residents — labs equipped to do variant testing, a process known as whole-genome sequencing.
The county received the results in late March.
Since February, this aggressive variant is likely becoming the dominant one in Shasta County, as it has throughout the country, according to U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
However, as of mid-March, COVID-19 case numbers haven’t surged in Shasta County the way they did in January with the original omicron strain, Koslosky said. Nor have they spiked the way they did in September with the delta strain.
Case numbers are likely higher than reported because county data doesn’t include at-home test results unless people taking the tests report their results.
Coronavirus in Shasta County: Updates throughout March, 2022
At the start of 2022, the original omicron variant spread swiftly through Shasta County, filling hospital wards into late February. Public Health reported it confirmed 35 deaths due to the disease in January, 32 in February and 52 in March.
“There is always a possibility that COVID-19 cases could increase again with BA.2, as prevalence of this variant are increasing across the United States,” Koslosky said. “The hope is that the past two surges and vaccination levels will help avoid another surge, but we can’t predict this for sure.”
Ask the R-S mailbag: Why Shasta County changed its coronavirus dashboard
Public Health recommends people still wear an N95 mask while in indoor public places.
“If you’re not yet vaccinated and/or boosted, now is the time to consider it,” Koslosky said.
To read more about COVID-19 variants, go to the CDC’s website at bit.ly/3LvD32G.
Jessica Skropanic is a features reporter for the Record Searchlight/USA Today Network. She covers science, arts, social issues and entertainment stories. Follow her on Twitter @RS_JSkropanic and on Facebook. Join Jessica in the Get Out! Nor Cal recreation Facebook group. To support and sustain this work, please subscribe today. Thank you.
This article originally appeared on Redding Record Searchlight: Stealth omicron: Contagious new COVID variant spreads in Shasta County