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If You Feel This, You May Have New Variant, Virus Expert Warns

Symptoms of the BA.2 Omicron subvariant feel like this.
FACT CHECKED BY Emilia Paluszek

Dr. Carlos del Rio, executive associate dean at Emory University School of Medicine, appeared on CNN Newsroom to discuss the implications of new COVID-19 surges—especially the Omicron BA.2 subvariant—with anchor Ana Cabrera. Here are symptoms of BA.2, according to Dr. del Rio. Read on—and to ensure your health and the health of others, don't miss these Sure Signs You've Already Had COVID.

1

Vaccinations Save Lives

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"It's been a really sad moment when we have heard that over a million Americans have died and more are still gonna be dying," says Dr. del Rio. "And a lot of those deaths could have been prevented if people had been vaccinated and boosted. So I want to first of all remind people, the most important thing you need to do is get yourself vaccinated and get yourself boosted."

2

Each New COVID-19 Variant Increasingly Transmissible

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"The virus is rapidly evolving, the variants are evolving very rapidly like we've never seen before," says Dr. del Rio. "And after the onset of Omicron, we've seen the virus take different mutations that are called subvariants of Omicron. And each one of these subvariants is a little more transmissible than the others. So chances are that you are gonna be confronting this virus."

3

Infections Are Inevitable With COVID Rules Ending

Woman with face mask sneezing into elbow while sitting in a cafe.
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"With people dropping restrictions like masking and having gatherings and parties, people are gonna get infected. We have all heard about family members and friends getting infected. So the most important thing if you get infected is, get tested and access therapy right away. We have plenty of supply of Paxlovid and other drugs that people can use to get treated. So know your information, know your rights, know what you can do. Get tested rapidly, get started on therapy right away. And that will be very helpful."

4

What Symptoms Should People Look Out For?

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"They're a little different and we don't hear as much about losing your sense of taste and smell with this variant," says Dr. del Rio. "We hear frequently of people complaining about a scratchy throat. They feel like a sore throat with a very scratchy throat. They also talk a lot about nasal congestion, like a head cold. And a lot of people initially think they have allergies because it feels like they could have allergies. But if you have fever, if you have allergy-like symptoms, if you have a scratchy throat, and particularly if five days ago you went to a big dinner with a lot of people, you went to a wedding and you're having those symptoms, don't say 'this is just allergies'. Get tested for COVID."

5

Should We Go Back To Wearing Masks?

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"If you are a 20, 30, 40-year-old person, otherwise healthy, who's been vaccinated and boosted, you may be able to take a lot more risky activities and do more risky stuff than if you're an 80-year-old who hasn't been boosted, or you're a 60-year-old immunosuppressed person—I think it's gonna be varying depending on what the individual risk is," says Dr. del Rio. "The reality is that we are unlikely going to be seeing mass mandates come back again. But I think if you want to wear a mask, you should wear a mask. There's nothing saying you shouldn't wear a mask. And if you're going to wear a mask, make sure it's a high-quality mask—get yourself an N95, a KN95, a well-fitting mask, that's what you need to wear. And [if] you are getting on a plane, make sure you're wearing the right mask."

6

Who Should Get Treatment Drug Paxlovid?

Female Lab Research Worker Wearing PPE Holding Test Tube Labelled BA.2
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"At this point in time, anybody who gets infected should at least inquire about it," says Dr. del Rio. "…If you are over the age of 40, or if you have an underlying condition like obesity, you should really try to access Paxlovid. And unless you're taking [some very few specific] medications, all the other drug interactions with Paxlovid can be easily managed by your clinician. And the reality is we're grossly underutilizing Paxlovid in this country. We have over 800,000 courses of therapy available at our drug stores and they're not being used. So we really need to be sure that we start using them more because it's an option that we're not using and we're not being effective as a nation to get it to the right people."

7

How to Stay Safe Out There

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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.

Ferozan Mast
Ferozan Mast is a science, health and wellness writer with a passion for making science and research-backed information accessible to a general audience. Read more