AUGUSTA, Georgia (WJBF) – As the fight against COVID continues, the latest “variant” of concern and being tracked across the globe is the Stealth variant.
South Carolina’s Department of Health and Environmental Control or DHEC, has confirmed 2 cases of this variant have been detected in the Palmetto State.
According to health experts, the STEALTH variant is like a little sister of what we know as the OMICRON variant and is why it does not have its own “Greek Name”.
Dr. Phillip Coule Vice President and Chief Medical officer at AU Health says, “The STEALTH variant has a slight mutation to OMICRON that can make it harder to pick up on some testing that uses this now mutated genetic sequence to determine infection in a patient.”
There could be a silver lining, however, to this STEALTH variant.
Dr. Coule tells NewsChannel 6, “The benefit of a more transmissible virus like OMICRON and it’s STEALTH variant is it can displace more lethal versions of the SARS COV-2 infection like the DELTA variant as the virus continues to evolve.”
The DELTA variant, first reported in Georgia in summer of 2021, was responsible for infections that caused an increase in severe illness, hospitalizations and even deaths, especially among the most vulnerable members of the population.
NewsChannel 6 asked Dr. Coule to explain how the STEALTH variant can be more transmissible and he explains that this mutated version of OMICRON, settles itself higher up in the airway of a patient’s body- near the entrance of the nose for example.
Because of that, higher quantities of the virus can be expelled from person to person and the minor mutation found in STEALTH can infect some patients more easily.
Dr. Coule says, symptoms of STEALTH are more like the common cold with symptoms like a sore throat and runny nose, where DELTA is much more severe as that version of the virus preferred to settle itself in a patient’s lungs, causing severe disease like pneumonia that increased hospitalizations and death.
“Receiving the COVID vaccine and the follow up booster injections is still the best way to prevent severe illness from COVID infection, including OMICRON and the STEALTH variant,” says Dr. Coule.
The CDC and other global health organizations also continue to advise taking the necessary precautions to protect yourself and your family, like frequent hand washing and sanitizing, social distancing in crowded areas and refraining from touching your face with your hands.
Dr. Coule tells NewsChannel 6, “As COVID continues to mutate there is hope that eventually, the virus will evolve into a less lethal virus and this latest STEALTH variant is one step in that direction”.
Dr. Coule tells NewsChannel 6, there have been no confirmed cases of the STEALTH variant among patients at AU Health.