Omicron variant subvariants BA.2.12 and BA.2.12.1 have been responsible for a recent surge in COVID-19 cases in New York, the New York State Department of Public Health said Wednesday.

Driving the news: The department said these two variants — which are subvariants of the original omicron variant — are considered highly contagious.

What they said: “State health officials have determined that these highly contagious new variants are likely contributing to the rising cases,” the department said in a press release.

  • “For the month of March, BA.2.12 and BA.2.12.1 rose to collectively comprise more than 70% prevalence in Central New York and more than 20% prevalence in the neighboring Finger Lakes region. Data for April indicate that levels in Central New York are now above 90%.”

By the numbers: BA.2.12 and BA.2.12.1. have a 23% to 27% growth advantage over the original BA.2 variant, which had a 30% growth advantage over the original omicron variant, according to Deadline.

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These two new omicron subvariants — BA.4 and BA.5 — are under investigation, WHO says

The bigger picture: Experts across the world are keeping an eye on emerging variants and subvariants of the novel coronavirus. Many of the recent variants appear to be subvariants or remnants of the omicron variant.

Similarly, the World Health Organization said Monday it plans to investigate the dozens of cases linked to new omicron subvariants BA.4 and BA.5.

  • BA.4 cases have been found in South Africa, Denmark, Botswana, Scotland and England.
  • Cases of BA.5 have been found in South Africa and Botswana.