Health officials in Canada have confirmed the identification of the BA.2.86 variant of the Omicron coronavirus in the country.
The new variant is highly mutated and was found in an individual in British Columbia who had not travelled outside the region, as stated by health authorities on Tuesday.
The person affected by the BA.2.86 virus is not currently in hospital, and the discovery does not alter the level of risk to the people in British Columbia.
Dr Bonnie Henry, the leading healthcare expert in the province, along with Health Minister Adrian Dix, issued a joint statement stressing that the presence of the BA.2.86 variant was expected and is in line with the virus's ongoing adaptations amid its global spread.
The BA.2.86 lineage, initially identified in Denmark the previous month, exhibits more than 35 mutations in crucial segments of the virus when compared to the dominant XBB.1.5 variant that was prevalent for most of the year 2023. The United States, Switzerland, and Israel have also reported cases linked to this new variant.
Recent information from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has indicated that the BA.2.86 variant might possess an increased ability to infect individuals who were previously infected with COVID-19 or have received vaccinations.
While scientists highlight the significance of closely monitoring the BA.2.86 variant, they express confidence that the variant is unlikely to trigger a severe wave of illness and fatalities. This is due to the worldwide immune responses that have developed through vaccinations and past infections.
Canadian health authorities have observed a rise in COVID-19 infections over the past weeks, although overall virus activity remains relatively low. The update was provided in the latest weekly report by Health Canada earlier on Tuesday.
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