What You Need to Know About the Coronavirus Omicron Variant BA.5
As the country continues to adjust to a new normal in the coronavirus pandemic, many Americans are excited to return to regular activities thanks to COVID-19 vaccines. But like any virus, SARS-CoV-2, which causes COVID-19, mutates. New variants of the virus can evade our immune defenses, making them more contagious even to some who are fully vaccinated.
The omicron subvariant BA.5 is now the predominant strain of COVID-19, making up more than 75% of new cases in the United States. Here is everything you need to know about the BA.5 subvariant and how you and your family can stay protected.
BA.5 is highly contagious
The BA.5 subvariant is one of the most contagious and easily transmissible strains of the COVID-19 virus to date. The with 5,559 daily hospital admissions. The BA.5 subvariant can evade the immune protection induced by COVID vaccinations or past COVID infections. For example, if you were infected with the delta variant last summer or the omicron BA.1 subvariant this past winter, your immunity is far less effective against BA.5. And the longer it’s been since your last vaccination or COVID infection, the more at risk you are for a breakthrough infection as a result of waning immunity.
Know the symptoms
Thanks in part to the widespread use of COVID vaccines, the vast majority of breakthrough infections are less severe than the ones we saw in the early stages of the pandemic. Symptoms and severity of illness vary from patient to patient. Those who are classified as immunocompromised may experience more severe symptoms than those who are not in high-risk groups.
Reported symptoms of the BA.5 subvariant include:
- Runny nose
- Sore throat
- Muscle pain
Learn how to protect your family
The best line of defense against BA.5 and any other COVID variants is to stay up-to-date on your COVID vaccinations and booster shots. This is especially important for patients ages 50 and up and those who are immunocompromised. The CDC recommends a second booster shot be administered for anyone in these groups. According to a new study published by the CDC, people over the age of 50 and those with underlying conditions were 80% better protected against infection after the second booster shot.
It is also recommended to wear a medical-grade face mask or respirator — such as an N95 or KN95 — in indoor public spaces where social distancing is more difficult or there’s poor ventilation. Frequent hand washing and avoiding large crowds when possible are also important to prevent any potential infection.