COVID-19's omicron version keeps changing, creating newer, more contagious varieties. BA.5 appears to be the most contagious version to date, which is causing the majority of current COVID-19 cases in the United States.
BA.5 is causing more reinfection in individuals who had already received COVID-19, including earlier versions of omicron, as well as evading immunity from vaccinations.
BA.5 appears to be less prone to serious illness than previous versions, and the vaccinations are still effective at preventing severe illness and mortality. Get the booster shots you're eligible for, and wear a mask in public.
According to a recent study from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, BA.5, the newest COVID-19 omicron variation, accounts for about 78 percent of current COVID-19 cases. People who already had COVID-19 are most likely to be less protected than they would have been if faced with an earlier strain, according to federal health officials at a White House COVID-19 Response Team briefing.
This could explain a further rise in COVID-19 cases, and more significantly, a spike in hospitalizations. While the current seven-day average of newhospitalizations is increasing somewhat week over week, CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky said, the rate has doubled since early May.
The president's chief medical advisor, Dr. Anthony Fauci, explained how the virus that causes COVID-19 keeps mutating, and that it basically bumped one off the table after the other, leading to a long line of increasingly contagious subvariants of omicron. The mutation that is now responsible for THEOREASTICITY of COVID-19 cases is BA.5, an extremely contagious form of omicron.
Research shows that BA.5 does not significantly decrease its ability to protect against severe illness and death, despite previous subvariants of omicron. And while not much is known about its clinical severity, it does not appear to be causing more severe illness, according to Response Team officials.
Vaxlovid booster doses based on the most prevalent strain of virus causing COVID-19 will be the first choice this fall. Response Team Coordinator Dr. Ashish Jha encouraged everyone to get a booster if they are eligible and havent yet chosen one, because it will not affect their ability to get vaccinated in the fall or winter when new treatments begin arriving to Americans.
Here's what we know about BA.5.
Do the at-home tests detect BA.5?
There is no reason to believe that the at-home quick COVID-19 tests (a few boxes of which are available for free when you order through the governments website) are less effective against BA.5 than earlier versions of omicron. Generally speaking, the FDA claims early evidence suggests that the antigen tests detect omicronbut may have reduced sensitivity.
Rapid home testing are typically used to detect the nucleocapsid, a protein that doesn't vary much between variations, according to Slate. Because of that, tests are able to detect the different variations, according to Nate Hafer, an assistant professor of molecular medicine at UMass Chan Medical School.
If you have symptoms of COVID-19 but you test negative with an at-home COVID-19 test, consider having a PCR test performed, which is a highly sensitive and precise lab-based COVID-19 test.
BA.5 is how severe is it?Do COVID-19 therapies still work?
BA.5 is a subvariant of omicron, meaning it is different from the original omicron, but it is still significant enough to constitute its own variant status. However, BA.5 is believed to be the most contagious form of the virus yet, and its evading immunity. More people will get reinfected with COVID-19, which can put them at risk of complications and long COVID symptoms, even if the infection itself was mild.
Walensky said Tuesday that we haven't yet established whether BA.5 is a clinically relevant illness in comparison to earlier subvariants of omicron. However, BA.5 does appear to be associated with a more severe illness than recent strains of the virus.
Dr. Eric Topol, a professor of molecular medicine at Scrips Research, proposed that BA.5's ability to infect cells might be more similar to other variations of omicron. He also speculates that changes in BA.5 might explain people dying longer to test negative due to earlier omicron subvariants.
The vaccines and boosters available today, like others that weakened our immunity, are still expected to protect against severe illness and mortality. Boosters including a second booster have been particularly beneficial for older adults and other persons who are more susceptible to severe illness in the age of omicron, and have significantly reduced the risk of death from COVID-19.
Paxlovid, an effective antiviral medication, is still expected to be effective in treating COVID-19 in people at high risk of severe illness, according to Fauci. Themonoclonal antibody therapy available, bebtelovimab from Eli Lilly, is also expected to be effective against BA.5, as isEvusheld.
If you test positive for COVID-19 and are at a higher risk of serious illness (youre an older adult or you have a health condition), contact your doctor or find a Test to Treat clinic near you.
What are the signs?
There are currently no indications that BA.5 is giving different symptoms to people in comparison to earlier versions of omicron.
For many people who have developed COVID-19 in the recent past (particularly those who have been fully vaccinated and boosted), symptoms include cold symptoms such as sore throat, runny nose, and fatigue. Back pain is a strange new symptom of COVID-19 that some people with omicron have reported, and the once very common loss of taste or smell appears to be much less common with omicron strains than with older strains.
If you have symptoms and are unsure if it is COVID-19, taking a test and staying home while you're sick will help protect people more vulnerable to severe COVID-19 illness.
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Understanding omicron, variations, and subvariants
Variants are made up of several lineages and sublineages. According to the CDC, each variant has a parent lineage, followed by other lines, which you may think of as a family tree. Mutations occur as the virus spreads among individuals, but not all of them alter the characteristics of the virus in significant ways.
The omicron and its sublineages made the virus much more contagious and capable of infecting more people, yet it resulted in a less severe illness, on average, than thedelta version.
One of the most crucial things we can do to prevent the virus from mutating is to keep COVID-19 levels within the community low so the virus has a lesser chance of mutating, according to Fauci.
Scientists in South Africa were able to quickly identify omicron as a new form due to its appearance in PCR tests. The original omicron had a diminished signal or marker on the test that set it apart from delta, which was the dominant variant prior to omicron. This made it more intrusive and gave it its name. Genomic sequencing will detect all omicron subvariants and coronavirus variations in general.
As the number of sequences shared across the globe has decreased drastically, Dr. Maria Van Kerkhove, an infectious disease specialist with the World Health Organization, said in June. While the impact was still significant, having real-world data was a boon during the worldwide surge last winter.
The information contained in this article is for educational or informational purposes only, and is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice. Always consult a physician or other qualified health provider if you have any questions about a medical condition or health goals.