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BA.5 Symptoms Doctors Say are "The Worst"

We have a new dominant subvariant.
FACT CHECKED BY Emilia Paluszek

For the second year, hopes of a summer with COVID in retreat have been foiled by BA.5, which is now the dominant subvariant of the coronavirus in the U.S. Experts say the virus has changed yet again, to become even more infectious, and to produce some different and more severe symptoms. Here's why doctors are saying BA.5 is the "worst" iteration of COVID-19 yet. Read on to find out more—and to ensure your health and the health of others, don't miss these Sure Signs You've Already Had COVID.


Frequent Reinfection

Man self tests for COVID-19 home test kit.

COVID has now become so infectious via BA.5 that you might be able to be reinfected every few weeks. That's why doctors are saying BA.5 is the "worst" subvariant so far. "The real superpower of BA.5 is reinfections," Dr. Peter Chin-Hong told ABC 7 San Francisco. "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."

"What we are seeing is an increasing number of people who have been infected with BA.2 and then becoming infected after four weeks," Andrew Roberston, chief health officer of Western Australia, said this week. "So maybe six to eight weeks they are developing a second infection, and that's almost certainly BA.4 or BA.5." That concerns experts, who say we don't know what those repeated infections might mean in terms of long COVID risk or compounded damage to the body. 


Painful Sore Throat

Woman having chest pain and coughing while lying down on sofa at home.

Anecdotally, BA.5 seems to be producing more cases of severe sore throat. "Like their throat is on fire," said Dr. Chin-Hong. "We hear it's the worst sore throat they've had."


Stronger Symptoms Overall

Sick woman on couch

"Symptoms may be more painful," said Dr. Chin-Hong. "It won't be so serious you'll go to the hospital, but it will be very uncomfortable." Dr. Allison Arwady, commissioner of the Chicago Department of Public Health, said Tuesday that BA.5 seems to produce "more symptoms. It's a more virulent infection." Fever, night sweats and sore throat are common, she said. Some people are reporting a loss of taste or smell, a formerly widespread symptom that had faded with recent subvariants but may be making a comeback.


Night Sweats

man stressed in bed that he can't sleep

The UK Independent reported that BA.5 may bring a new symptom that occurs during sleep. "The disease is slightly different because the virus has changed," Professor Luke O'Neill of Trinity College Dublin said on a radio show last week. "There is some immunity to it, obviously with the T-cells and so on, and that mix of your immune system and the virus being slightly different might give rise to a slightly different disease—strangely enough, night sweats being a feature." O'Neill noted that the "message to keep reminding people" is "if you are vaccinated and you're boosted, it doesn't progress into severe disease."


How to Stay Safe Out There


Follow the fundamentals and help end this pandemic, no matter where you live—get vaccinated 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.

Michael Martin
Michael Martin is a New York City-based writer and editor. Read more about Michael