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CLAYTON, Mo. – The St. Louis County Department of Public Health is monitoring a COVID-19 sub-variant that has recently turned up in Missouri’s sewer shed surveillance program.

The BA.2 variant—more commonly known as ‘stealth omicron‘—has been attributed to an increase in COVID-19 cases in Europe. Missouri has confirmed that some recent positive cases in St. Louis County have been caused by this sub-variant.

Earlier this week, the World Health Organization said BA.2 accounts for 75% of all current COVID cases, making it the dominant variant around the globe. In the U.S., stealth omicron only accounts for 23% of current cases as of March 20.

As the moment, scientists have reason to believe BA.2 is more transmissiable than the standard omicron variant. However, vaccination and even prior infection with omicron seem to protect against the new sub-variant. Health officials in St. Louis County cannot predict if stealth omicron will lead to new wave of COVID cases in the region.

At the moment, Missouri enjoys a record low rate of positive tests. St. Louis County’s COVID positivity rate is also relatively low at 3.4%. The county is averaging about 50 new cases per day.

As it the case with any virus, the longer it circulates, it will continue to spawn new variants – some of which could prove more contagious, more resistant to medical treatment, or more deadly. While the mandates are gone, the county still recommends taking precautions like being vaccinated and getting a booster when eligible, getting tested if you exhibit symptoms or have been exposed, and wearing a face covering in indoor public settings.