A subvariant of the COVID-19 variant omicron, called BA.2, was detected by University of Wisconsin Health this Thursday in Dane County.

According to a UW Health press release sent to The Badger Herald by the University Health Services spokesperson Marlena Holden, BA.2 is “1.5 times more contagious than its original form,” as reported in a pre-print Danish study.

At this time, a BA.2 infection does not appear to be any more severe than BA.1 — the initial omicron variant — and vaccines still hold the same level of effectiveness between the two, according to Reuters. Currently, fewer than five cases were reported throughout the state of Wisconsin.

Holden still expressed a need to follow safety protocols regardless of the severity.

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“Even as cases are leveling out on campus, the emergence of this new variant highlights the importance of students continuing to follow proven strategies,” Holden said in an email statement.

The UW Office of the Chancellor released a statement this Thursday, noting COVID-19 cases on campus had plateaued and encouraged UW students to mask, get tested if experiencing symptoms or have been exposed, stay home if sick and get a booster shot.

In the press release, Infectious Disease Physician at UW Health and UW Associate Dean for Clinical Trials Dr. Nasia Safdar said that in order to keep cases low, vaccinations and proper public health measures will be critical in ending the Omicron phase of the pandemic.

According to the Washington Post, BA.2 is difficult to detect on PCR tests. In the press release, Safdar said there is much scientists do not yet know, but “we do know the now approved vaccines for COVID-19 work against these variants when we are fully vaccinated.”

UHS encourages all students, faculty and staff to get vaccinated and boosted, with many appointments available throughout the week, as well as keep their vaccination statuses up to date.