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Telltale Signs You've Already Had COVID, Says Experts

What to know about BA.5 and signs you've COVID. 
FACT CHECKED BY Emilia Paluszek

We just can't get a break from COVID. While things were inching closer towards normalcy, cases are rising again thanks to the latest dominant variant BA.5, which experts say is the most contagious COVID strain yet. Although the virus affects everyone differently, there are symptoms to watch out for that indicate you've had COVID and Eat This, Not That! Health spoke with Dr. Mark Fischer, Regional Medical Director at International SOS who explains what to know about BA.5 and symptoms to watch out for. Read on—and to ensure your health and the health of others, don't miss these Sure Signs You've Already Had COVID.


What Should People Know About BA.5?

Doctor with blood sample of Covid-19 Omicron B.1.1.529 Variant and general data of covid-19 Coronavirus Mutations.

Dr. Fischer says, "BA.5 is a subvariant of the Omicron variant. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, BA.5 makes up for 80% of the nation's current COVID cases. The variant is fast-spreading and highly contagious compared to other variants of COVID. It also has the power to reinfect those who have recently had COVID and is more resistant to vaccines."


Why BA.5 is so Contagious and Evades Immunity

Portrait of doctor with face mask and clipboard looking at camera in hospital.

Dr. Fischer tells us, "BA.5 has the ability to spread faster than other variants we've seen in the past because it contains unique mutations, which can give the ability to bypass immunity or vaccines."


Severity of the BA.5 and the Risk it Poses to Vaccinated & Unvaccinated People

Doctor vaccinating female patient in clinic.

According to Dr. Fischer, "The severity of BA.5 is high because of its ability to reinfect those who already had COVID and has become more resistant to vaccines compared to other variants. The symptoms of BA.5 are similar to previous variants of COVID, including fever, cough, sore throat, runny nose, headaches, fatigue, body aches, shortness of breath, and chest pain.

It's very important for people to stay up to date on their COVID vaccinations. It is recommended in the United States for ages 6 months and older to receive the COVID vaccination primary series. The CDC has key points for interim clinical guidance on vaccination within its Clinical Guidance for COVID-19 Vaccination | CDC. According to recent data, the CDC has found that those 50 years or older who have only received their first booster shot are four times more at-risk of dying from COVID than those who have had two booster shots. Those who are fully vaccinated are less likely to develop severe symptoms than those who are unvaccinated."


Signs That Indicate You've Already Had COVID

Young woman sitting alone on her sofa at home and coughing.

Dr. Fischer tells us, "The best way to know if you've had COVID is with a positive COVID test result or a positive antibody test result. Some people may have already had COVID and had no idea they did as some cases that are asymptomatic or mildly symptomatic are attributed to other issues. Some people may assume they had a different illness while they really had COVID, especially during allergy and flu seasons as there are similar symptoms."

NBC 5 Chicago reports, "The U.K., where BA.4 and BA.5 infections also account for the majority of recent COVID cases, reported runny nose, sore throat, headache, persistent cough and fatigue as its most common symptoms last week.

Less than one-third of people surveyed reported fevers, according to data from the Zoe COVID Symptom Study, which allows people to self-report symptoms through smartphone apps. The symptoms are consistent with those reported in the spring, when the BA.2 subvariant was dominant in the country."


Most Common COVID Symptoms, According to the CDC

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

The CDC still lists the same symptoms to be aware of:

  • Fever or chills
  • Cough
  • Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
  • Fatigue
  • Muscle or body aches
  • Headache
  • New loss of taste or smell
  • Sore throat
  • Congestion or runny nose
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Diarrhea

"People with COVID-19 have had a wide range of symptoms reported – ranging from mild symptoms to severe illness. Symptoms may appear 2-14 days after exposure to the virus. Anyone can have mild to severe symptoms." 


How the Rise in Cases Can Affect Travel, Both Domestically and Internationally

Virus mask woman travel wearing face protection in prevention for coronavirus at airport.

Dr. Fischer says, "Although many countries have removed testing requirements for travelers, COVID-19 still remains a threat. It is important to have easy access to travel information since the public health and governmental restrictions continue to evolve. I recommend ensuring that you have received the COVID vaccination and booster, if eligible. Traveling while unvaccinated will put you at a higher risk for infection, as well as a higher risk of spreading infection to others. While travel remains safe for most, if vaccinated, there are extra precautions that should be taken when traveling. You should assess your risk and personal health. If you are at a higher risk, you should wear a mask in public spaces and pack an at-home COVID test in case you begin to feel ill. If you are at a higher risk for COVID-19, you should also research nearby hospitals or urgent care offices near your accommodations. When traveling, both domestically and internationally, it's best to stay up to date on current guidelines as they have the potential to change quickly."


The Likelihood of Seeing New Vaccinations and How They are Projected to Impact COVID Spikes in the Future

African American man in antiviral mask gesturing thumb up during coronavirus vaccination, approving of covid-19 immunization

Dr. Fischer tells us, "It is unknown at this time when we can expect to see new vaccines come about, although they are often talked about. It may be more likely that we begin to see all adults within the United States become eligible for a second booster shot in the fall. Although this would not eliminate the spread of new variants, it would lessen transmission rates, causing a slower increase in cases should we see new variants develop. New variants present challenges and we continue to learn more about COVID every day. We need to be prepared that public health guidance may evolve and stay up to date with the recommendations." 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.

Heather Newgen
Heather Newgen has two decades of experience reporting and writing about health, fitness, entertainment and travel. Heather currently freelances for several publications. Read more about Heather