Health officials say they're not concerned with new COVID variant detected in Lorain County
The Ohio Department of Health on Thursday confirmed that the COVID-19 variant BA.2.86, nicknamed "Pirola," was found in a case in Lorain County. However, state and local medical professionals say there is no additional cause for concern at this point.
"From what we can tell, the symptoms are pretty similar, severities, pretty similar," said Dr. James Kravec, chief clinical officer at Mercy Health in Lorain. "So this may just be a normal expected course of what viruses do in the community."
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention added Pirola to its watchlist in late August and noted that the variant may post a greater risk for breakthrough infections. "Pirola contains a number of mutations that make it distinct from other currently circulating lineages," ODH said in a media release Thursday.
But at this point, there was no need for concern, said ODH Director Dr. Bruce Vanderhoff.
“There is no evidence that this variant is causing any more severe illness, hospitalizations or deaths,” he said.
Washing your hands, staying home when you're sick and making sure you're up to date [on vaccines] ... that's our best shot.Erin Murphy, Lorain County Public Health's director of health promotion and chronic disease prevention
Pirola has been confirmed in 23 other human cases globally, including two others in the United States, according to the ODH.
New COVID-19 vaccines are expected to become available in mid-September, according to Cuyahoga County Board of Health Medical Director Dr. Prakash Ganesh.
In recent weeks, COVID-19 cases have been on the rise, though doctors have noted that numbers haven't approached levels seen in previous years.
Ohio reported about 5,400 new cases the week of Aug. 28, up from the three-week average of 4,100 cases, according to ODH figures. Hospitalizations due to the virus increased 18.8% nationally between Aug. 13 and 19, according to the CDC.
However, the increase in Lorain has mostly been in outpatient visits, Kravec said.
"I just know that in the hospitals we're not seeing a rise," he said. "We're not seeing a rise of deaths. We're not seeing a rise of severe cases. So that's all good news."
COVID-19 is now more like the common flu than the deadly threat it was in 2020, Kravec added.
"We're out of the pandemic," he said." We're into the phase where this is going to be here, just like with influenza every year. With influenza, there's a new event, new vaccine. There probably will be a new vaccine with COVID, just like just like every year with influenza."