Health officials in British Columbia say they have detected the first known Canadian case of the BA.2.86 COVID-19 virus variant.

The B.C. Centre for Disease Control confirmed it was found in a person in the Fraser Health region, east of Vancouver, who has not travelled outside of the province.

In a joint statement, Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry and B.C. Health Minister Adrian Dix said they are monitoring the variant but added it “was not unexpected” for it to show up in B.C. or in Canada.

“So far, there does not seem to be increased severity with this strain of COVID and the individual is not hospitalized,” the statement reads.

BA.2.86 was deemed a variant under monitoring by the World Health Organization on Aug. 17.

Though only a handful of samples exist, its emergence across several continents since it was first identified in late July, coupled with its unusually high number of mutations, has put COVID watchers on high alert.

But it is still difficult to predict whether it will lead to any increase in severity of spread or infection, virologists say.

For now, health officials in B.C. are offering the same advice: stay home when sick, wear masks as needed, wash hands frequently and stay up to date on vaccinations.

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