OTTAWA - Canada has detected its first case of coronavirus infection from the highly mutated BA.2.86 variant of Omicron in a person in British Columbia who had not traveled outside the Pacific province, health officials said on Tuesday.
The individual is not hospitalized, and the detection of BA.2.86 virus has not changed the risk to people in British Columbia, the province's top doctor, Bonnie Henry, and Health Minister Adrian Dix said in a joint statement.
"It was not unexpected for BA.2.86 to show up in Canada and the province," they said. "COVID-19 continues to spread globally, and the virus continues to adapt."
The BA.2.86 lineage, first detected in Denmark last month, carries more than 35 mutations in key portions of the virus compared with XBB.1.5, the dominant variant through most of 2023. The United States, Switzerland and Israel have also recorded cases of the new variant.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said last week the BA.2.86 variant may be more capable of causing infection in people who have previously had COVID-19 or who have received preventive vaccines.
Scientists have said that while it was important to monitor BA.2.86, it was unlikely to cause a devastating wave of severe disease and death given immune defenses built up worldwide from vaccination and prior infection.
Canadian health authorities have noted an uptick in COVID infections in recent weeks, though virus activity remains relatively low, Health Canada said in a weekly update earlier on Tuesday.
(Reporting by Ismail Shakil Editing by Sandra Maler)