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'Stealth omicron': What you need to know about the new subvariant of COVID-19

The World Health Organization said this is not a variant of concern and there's no need to panic.

NORFOLK, Va. — A new subvariant of COVID-19 is starting to pop up in the U.S. and in 40 other countries around the world.

Throughout the pandemic, different variants have appeared across the country. Some did a lot of damage, but others simply disappeared. Now, scientists are watching what they call "stealth omicron," or BA.2.

Right now, the world continues its battle with omicron which accounts for 99.9% of all COVID-19 cases in the United States.

Dr. Anthony Fauci and other health experts have said we could finally reach the peak of omicron by mid-February.

"We need to keep at it, there may be some hopeful signs, but let's not take our foot off the pedal," Dr. Julia Murphy with the Virginia Department of Health told 13News Now.

Vaccines have kept up with the new variants of the virus, so far.

"The existing vaccines on the market are still doing incredibly well," Dr. John Brownstein with Harvard Medical School told ABC News. "But it's important to stay prepared for what might come and where we might be in the future with this pandemic."

But the new variant has been detected in 40 different countries so far and right here in the U.S. in four states: California, New Mexico, Texas and Washington state.

"Stealth omicron" is a subvariant of omicron. It got its name because it cannot be distinguished from other variants on the PCR tests that public health officials use. To identify it, further lab analysis is needed.

The World Health Organization said it is not a variant of concern and health officials say there is no need to panic.

The WHO said there is no current evidence to suggest the subvariant will increase COVID-19 transmission, severity or affect vaccine efficacy.

It’s important to note the evolution of COVID-19 subvariants is not new.

The delta variant also had several subvariants, but scientists referred to all of them as delta.

BA.2 however, earned its own designation because of the rising numbers across several countries.

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