B.C. health officials have confirmed a case of the BA.2.86 strain of SARS-Cov-2, the first such infection to be detected in Canada.
The COVID-19 variant was recently added to the World Health Organization’s list of variants under monitoring.
While it is not currently driving the ongoing uptick in infections in Europe, the U.S. and Canada, BA.2.86 has some mutations that “raise an eyebrow,” according to Dr. Isaac Bogoch, a Toronto-based infectious disease expert, who spoke to CTVNews.ca about the variant last week.
“There were components of this mutation that were reminiscent of BA.2, which we saw much earlier on in the Omicron era,” he said. “There were (also) components similar to Delta mutations.”
Bogoch also stressed, as did B.C. health officials, that the variant has only recently been detected, and it’s too early to say what effect, if any, it will have on the trajectory of COVID-19 in Canada.
“The B.C. Centre for Disease Control has identified British Columbia’s first case of a person infected with the BA.2.86 variant of Omicron in an individual from the Fraser Health region who has not travelled outside the province,” said provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry and Health Minister Adrian Dix in a joint statement Tuesday.
“It is the first known case in Canada of this variant. So far, there does not seem to be increased severity with this strain of COVID and the individual is not hospitalized.”
The health officials said the detection of the variant in B.C. is a testament to the province’s ongoing monitoring of the coronavirus both through testing and wastewater surveillance.
“It was not unexpected for BA.2.86 to show up in Canada and the province,” the pair said. “The risk to people in B.C. has not changed. COVID-19 continues to spread globally, and the virus continues to adapt. Reducing transmission and having high levels of protection through vaccination continue to be our best defence against all variants of COVID-19.”
Though Henry and Dix characterized the risk to British Columbians as unchanged, their announcement was an unusual one in the context of COVID-19 in 2023.
The province did not release public statements about B.C.’s first detection of other Omicron subvariants, such as the XBB and EG.5 strains.
According to Dix and Henry, XBB.1.5 remains the most common subvariant being reported in B.C., and no other cases of BA.2.86 have been detected in the province, so far.
“We urge all people in B.C. to continue to follow public health advice and to stay home when sick, wear masks when appropriate, follow respiratory etiquette, wash hands frequently, and, most importantly, stay up to date on your vaccinations,” the officials said.
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