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Omicron subvariants BA.4 or BA.5 detected in all major Hawaii counties

At least one of the omicron subvariants BA.4 and BA.5 is now present in all four major counties of Hawaii, according to the state Department of Health’s latest variant report.

Honolulu County has both coronavirus subvariants BA.4 and BA.5, which were first detected in South Africa, but one or the other is also present in Kauai, Maui, and Hawaii counties.

The variant report, published Wednesday, said omicron subvariant BA.2.12.1 is now the dominant lineage in Hawaii, making up 57% of variants circulating in the state. But cases of even more transmissible variants, BA.4 and BA.5, are rising in the state.

There are now 24 confirmed cases— nine of BA.4 and 15 of BA.5 — detected via genome sequencing of COVID-19 test specimens from Hawaii, according to the report. That is triple the number reported in the June 8 variant report.

DOH’s State Laboratories Division detected four cases of BA.4 and eight cases of BA.5 in Honolulu County; two cases of BA.4 in Maui County; four cases of BA.5 in Hawaii County; and one case of BA.5 in Kauai County. The remaining confirmed cases of BA.4 and BA.5 are of unknown origin.

According to the report, BA.1.12.1 is believed to be about 1.3 times more transmissible than BA.2.

Relative growth modeling has shown BA.4 and BA.5 to be about 1.6 and 1.7 times more transmissible than BA.2, respectively. Studies suggest that BA.4 and BA.5 have an increased ability to evade therapeutic antibodies, as well as antibodies elicited by vaccination or prior infection.

Nationally, BA.4 and BA.5 are also on the rise, and make up about 35% of new coronavirus cases in the U.S., while BA.2.12.1 makes up 56%, according to the latest data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

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