Two people in Israel who returned from abroad were found to be carrying a previously unidentified COVID variant, the Health Ministry said on Wednesday.
The virus is a combination of the BA.1 (omicron) and infectious BA.2 variants.
The two patients tested positive after undergoing a PCR test upon landing at Ben-Gurion International airport, and their samples were sequenced in Israel. According to the Health Ministry, the patients had light symptoms, including fever, headaches and muscle aches, and did not require specialized medical care.
Israel's COVID czar, Prof. Salman Zarka, told Army Radio that the patients are a couple in their 30s who contracted the virus from their infant son. He said that two viruses linking up, particularly when both are contracted, is a common phenomenon. He explained that this occurs when there are two viruses in the same cell, and that "when they multiply, they exchange genetic material, creating a new virus."
Omicron infections have been falling in the past week in favor of rising BA.2 infections, and Health Ministry officials are concerned about the spread. "We are still seeing a continued decrease in the number of infections in all groups and ages, but the infection rate has begun to rise in the past week," Zarka said.