A second US test came back positive for the new, highly mutated BA.2.86 Covid variant, which has caused global alarm over its rapid transmission.
The positive case was detected in an asymptomatic patient in Virginia who was tested August 10 after returning to the United States from Japan.
Scientists identified the case in a database containing test samples from travelers entering the country – and experts believe the new strain is spreading to more states.
The researchers are concerned about the variant, which was also detected in Michigan last week, because it stems from an “earlier branch” of the coronavirus, so it is different from the variant targeted by current vaccines.
The positive case was detected in an asymptomatic patient in Virginia who was tested on August 10 (picture former Virginia Governor Ralph Northam, left, watching a COVID testing center being built in 2020).
Hospitalization rates across the United States rose for the fifth week in a row, but they’re barely a third of the levels recorded at this time last year
Covid deaths remain flat for the time being, after rising by four percent in a week. They are hovering around record lows
Dr. Aaron Glatt, a physician at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York, said the fact that two cases were confirmed in the United States means the virus is now present in other areas of the country.
Only a small fraction of positive swabs are tested for variants, which means that many cases with this strain are likely to go undiagnosed.
This marks the second case detected in the United States after an elderly patient with mild disease in Michigan was diagnosed with the strain. They have not been hospitalized.
Worldwide, seven cases have so far been detected in four countries – including Israel, Denmark and the United Kingdom.
Amid growing concern about the alternative, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the World Health Organization (WHO) They both said they are Trace the mutant strain.
The Virginia case was discovered in the US Traveler Centered Genome Surveillance Program.
This analyzes positive samples taken from passengers who have been tested for Covid to check for variants.
Travelers are also surveyed about their travel history and whether they have any symptoms.
The program is operating at seven airports — including Dulles International Airport in Washington, D.C. — where the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says it can act as an “early warning system” for any variants entering the United States.
The new strain has not yet been detected in Japan, but official data from the country shows that cases and hospitalizations are on the rise.
The latest data shows that there were 22,000 coronavirus patients in the country’s hospitals on August 16, double the number of 10,000 patients in the previous week.
However, this is still down from the 35,000 reported at the same time last year.
Former Food and Drug Administration director Dr. Scott Gottlieb warned this weekend that he was “very concerned” about the new strain.
He warned that the strain may be more transmissible than other Covid strains currently circulating.
But, he added, there is no data to indicate that it is more likely to cause severe illness or death than other variants. Previously, the virus had evolved to be more transmissible but less lethal.
On a national level, the latest official data shows that hospitalizations are on the rise – albeit from record low levels.
There were 12,613 admissions that tested positive for COVID in the week ending August 12, marking the fifth consecutive week that hospital admissions due to the virus have risen and an increase of one-fifth from the previous week.
But that’s still barely a third of the levels recorded at the same time last year, when there were about 40,000 entries each week.
Fatalities remain flat, with 479 deaths reported in the latest week for which data is available, July 22, compared to 484 in the previous seven-day period.
Hollywood studio Lionsgate has ordered nearly half of its employees to start wearing face masks again. The rule is in effect until further notice at their building in Santa Monica
Morris Brown College, a private liberal arts school in Atlanta, Georgia, also ordered staff and students to wear masks again in hallways and lecture halls.
A staff member gives a face mask to a man at the Chinese Hospital in San Francisco, in August 2021 during a pandemic
There is no official data on coronavirus cases because only about 40,000 tests are being conducted per day.
But test positivity — the percentage of those tests that come back positive — has doubled in the past month.
There are also concerns about another variant of the coronavirus – EG.5 – which is prevalent in the US and estimated to be behind at least a fifth of all infections.
Scientists say this strain is more transmissible and could lead to an uptick in cases. But they warn that BA.X may bypass it.
Amid more alarm bells ringing about Covid, there are now signs that some organizations are starting to bring back face masks.
Yesterday, Lionsgate — the company behind the Saw and Hunger Games franchises — announced that employees will now need to wear face masks in their offices in Santa Monica, California.
They said employees will also need to self-test before heading into the office, and tell their managers if they have tested positive or develop symptoms of the disease.
Lionsgate said the rules were in response to positive cases among staff.
They have followed in the footsteps of Morris Brown College, a private liberal arts school in Atlanta, Georgia, which has also ordered staff and students to wear masks again in hallways and lecture halls.
The college said the rules will be in place for two weeks and were triggered due to “reports of positive cases among students”.
Students are also required to maintain social distancing and all parties and large gatherings have been banned.
The number of coronavirus cases in Georgia has increased for three consecutive weeks, but overall, the number of infections and hospitalizations remains low.