COVID-19's omicron form keeps evolving, creating newer, more contagious versions. BA.5 seems to be the most prevalent version to date, and is causing the majority of current COVID-19 instances in the United States.
BA.5 is causing more reinfection in people who already had COVID-19, including earlier versions of omicron. It's also evading immunity from vaccinations.
BA.5 does not appear to be causing more serious illness than previous versions, and the vaccinations are still effective at preventing severe illness and death. Get the booster injections you qualify for, and wear a mask in public.
People who already had COVID-19 are most likely not as protected as they would have been if facing an earlier strain due to the composition of the newest variant, according to federal health officials during a White House COVID-19 Response Team briefing last week.
Another increase in COVID-19 cases and, more importantly, hospitalizations might be explained by this finding. According to CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky, the current seven-day average of newhospitalizations has doubled in comparison to early May.
The president's chief medical advisor, Dr. Anthony Fauci, explained how the virus that causes COVID-19 keeps mutating, and the virus basically bumped one variant off the table after the other, leading to an increasing number of increasingly contagious subvariants of omicron. The mutation that has now been responsible for the huge number of COVID-19 cases is BA.5, an extremely contagious form of omicron.
According to Fauci, BA.5 does not decrease the ability to protect against severe illness and mortality much like earlier subvariants of omicron. And while little is known about its clinical severity, it does appear to be causing more severe illness.
If anybody is eligible and hasn't yet chosen a booster, COVID-19 booster injections, including Paxlovid, are expected to be beneficial later in the year or winter, as well as the US Test to Treat clinics, which are still up and running.
Here's what we know so far about BA.5.
Do at-home testing detect BA.5?
There's no reason to think that the at-home quick COVID-19 tests (a few boxes of which are free when you order through the governments website) are less effective against BA.5 compared with earlier versions of omicron. Generally speaking, the FDA believes early data suggests the antigen tests detect omicronbut may have decreased sensitivity.
Rapid home testing work by detecting the part of the COVID-19 virus protein that does not change much between variations, according to Slate. Because of that, the tests are able to detect the different variations, Nate Hafer, an assistant professor of molecular medicine at UMass Chan Medical School, said the publication.
Consider getting a PCR test if you have symptoms of COVID-19 but are negative with an at-home COVID-19 test.
BA.5 is how severe is it?Do COVID-19 therapies still work?
BA.5 is a subvariant of omicron, which means it is different from the original omicron, but it isn't significant enough to give it its own status as a variant. (Delta is a different form of the virus from omicron and beta, for example). More people will get reinfected with COVID-19, which may cause complications and long COVID symptoms, even if the infection itself was minor.
Walensky said Tuesday that we don't know yet how severe BA.5 is compared to earlier subvariants of omicron. However, BA.5 doesn't appear to be associated with more severe illness than previous strains of the virus.
Dr. Eric Topol, a professor of molecular medicine at Scrips Research, suggested that BA.5's ability to infect cells might be more compatible with other versions of omicron. He also speculated that changes in BA.5 might explain patients' longer testing delays compared to earlier omicron subvariants.
The various versions of omicron that reduced our immunity are still expected to provide protection against serious illness and mortality. Boosters including a second booster have been particularly helpful for elderly individuals and other individuals who are more susceptible to severe illness in the age of omicron, and have substantially reduced the death risk from COVID-19.
Paxlovid, an effective antiviral medication, is still expected to be effective in treating COVID-19 in individuals at greater risk of serious illness, according to Fauci on Tuesday. Themonoclonal antibody therapy available, bebtelovimab from Eli Lilly, is also expected to be effective against BA.5, as isEvusheld.
If you have tested positive for COVID-19 and are at a greater risk of serious illness (youre an older adult or you have a health condition), consult your doctor or find a Testing to Treat clinic near you.
What are the signs?
There aren't any indications that BA.5 is causing different symptoms than previous versions of omicron right now.
COVID-19 symptoms for many people these days (especially those who have been fully vaccinated and boosted) include sore throat, runny nose, and fatigue. Back pain is a new symptom of COVID-19 that some people with omicron have identified, and the once very common taste or smell loss appears to be much less common with older strains.
If you are experiencing symptoms of COVID-19 and are wondering whether it's COVID-19, taking a test and staying home while you're sick will help protect individuals more vulnerable to severe COVID-19 illness.
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Understanding omicron, variations, and subvariants
Mutations occur as the virus spreads between individuals, but not all of them alter the characteristics of the virus in meaningful ways.
The omicron and its sublineages made the virus much more contagious and capable of infecting more people, but it also resulted in a less severe illness on average.
One of the most essential things we can do to prevent the virus from mutating is to keep COVID-19 levels within the community low, so the virus has less chance of mutating, according to Fauci.
Scientists in South Africa were able to quickly identify omicron as a new type due to the way itpresents in PCR tests. The original omicron had a dropped signal or marker on the test that set it apart from delta, which was the dominant variant prior to omicron. This made it more stealthy and gave it its name.
As the number of sequences shared across the world has dropped dramatically, Dr. Maria Van Kerkhove, an infectious disease specialist with the World Health Organization, said in June. While the effect was still substantial, having real-world data available quickly after researchers detected omicron was a boon during the global spike last winter.
The information contained in this article is for educational or informational purposes only, and is not intended as health or medical advice. Always consult with a physician or other qualified health provider if you have any questions about a medical condition or health goals.