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New Omicron sub-variant has new symptoms and is more contagious, SRHD says

Less than 1% of Omicron cases are the second variant, but past COVID-19 infection no longer yields immunity.

SPOKANE, Wash. — A new sub-variant of Omicron has been detected, according to Spokane Regional Health District (SRHD) Health Officer Francisco Velazquez.

Though less than 1% of Omicron cases are the second variant, BA.2, case numbers have risen in other parts of the world, namely the United Kingdom, South Africa and Denmark. 

The BA.2 subvariant has slightly different symptoms and spreads 30% more easily than Omicron. 

Velazquez said to look out for dizziness and fatigue. However, because those symptoms can come from a number of causes, he encourages people to continue getting vaccinated and boosted to decrease the risk of infection. 

Additionally, previous infection from the Omicron variant does not offer immunity from the BA.2 subvariant, according to SRHD. While BA.2 currently constitutes less than 1% of Omicron COVID-19 cases, public health officials are watching it closely and it is considered a variant of concern by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) under the Omicron strain. 

Despite this, hospitalization continues to decline in Spokane as the end of Washington's mask mandate approaches, according to Velazquez. In the last seven to 10 days, hospitalizations have decreased by 40%. 

If the decline continues at this rate, Velazquez said case numbers in hospitals should become more manageable by Mar. 21, the day the Washington indoor mask mandate is lifted. 

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