These COVID Symptoms are Associated With BA.4 and BA.5
Omicron subvariants BA.4 and BA.5 are causing a surge of cases across the US, and virus experts are concerned about how quickly they are spreading. "I think it could be our second worst surge in terms of numbers of cases," says Peter Chin-Hong, MD, professor in the UCSF Health Division of Infectious Diseases. "We have to be careful. The real superpower of BA.5 is reinfections. And because BA.5 is new, if you got infected two or three weeks ago, it's not likely BA.5, so you're susceptible to reinfection." Here are five symptoms of BA.4 and BA.5. Read on—and to ensure your health and the health of others, don't miss these Sure Signs You've Already Had COVID.
Painfully Sore Throat
A sore throat that feels like it's burning could be a sign of BA.5, doctors warn. "Symptoms may be more painful," says Dr. Chin-Hong. "Like their throat is on fire with BA.5. We hear it's the worst sore throat they've had."
"We're hearing a lot about back and neck aches and pains," says William Shaffner, MD, professor of medicine in the Division of Infectious Diseases at the Vanderbilt University School of Medicine. "It's all anecdotal, but as people have looked at previous variants, the distinctions between the variants have not been very large."
Loss of Smell and Taste
People infected with BA.4 and BA.5 are reporting a comeback in one of the original COVID-19 symptoms: a loss of smell and taste. "When you administer a smell test, we're seeing about 25% of people have an impaired sense of smell, which is not a small number," says Valentina Parma, psychologist at the Monell Chemical Senses Center in Philadelphia.
"I have talked to people overall about losing their taste and smell lately and it seems that there is an uptick, but the data isn't there yet," says Dr. Lora Bankova, an allergist and immunologist at Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston.
Nowhere Is Safe
Think you're safe from BA.4 and BA.5 if you're outside? Think again."Outdoors has never been a 100% safe zone," says Thomas Russo, MD, professor and chief of infectious disease at the University at Buffalo in New York. "You're much less likely to get infected outdoors than you are indoors—that's unequivocal. However, if you're in close quarters with an individual in close quarters for a longer period of time, you're still at risk of getting infected."
BA.4 and BA.5 Are Evading Immunity
BA.4 and BA.5 are evading immune protection from previous infections and vaccinations, so virus experts are urging common sense to protect against infection (and reinfection). "Covid is still rampant in the population," says Professor Tim Spector, who runs the ZOE Health Study. "Even if people have had a past infection and are fully vaccinated, people are still catching it. Although we all want to make the most of the good weather, people will need to decide for themselves whether going to large events, working from the office or using busy public transport is worth the risk."
How to Stay Safe Out There
Follow the public health fundamentals and help end this pandemic, no matter where you live—get vaccinated or boosted ASAP; if you live in an area with low vaccination rates, wear an N95 face mask, don't travel, social distance, avoid large crowds, don't go indoors with people you're not sheltering with (especially in bars), practice good hand hygiene, and to protect your life and the lives of others, don't visit any of these 35 Places You're Most Likely to Catch COVID.
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