The New COVID-19 Symptoms That Are Easy to Miss
The highly contagious BA.5 subvariant is causing a nationwide spike in cases, and experts believe the numbers might actually be higher thanks to at-home testing. But even without accurate data, there is no doubt a surge is happening. "You don't have to count every raindrop to know it's raining," says Dr. Joseph Kanter, Louisiana's state health officer and medical director. "And it's pouring right now." Here are five signs of BA.5 that are easy to miss, according to experts. Read on—and to ensure your health and the health of others, don't miss these Sure Signs You've Already Had COVID.
Is It BA.5 or Allergies?
Some symptoms of BA.5 closely mirror those of seasonal allergies. "It's the scratchy throat, the rhinitis, that runny nose, itchy eyes, a general feeling of unwell, what we'd call malaise or lethargy," says infectious disease specialist Ogechika Alozie MD, MPH, AAHIVM.
Fever could be a sign of BA.5 infection. "The course of these infections is that you should progressively be getting better over three to five days. Your fever should break," says infectious disease expert Michelle Barron, MD. "If your fever is persisting or you are unable to eat or drink, or you're feeling weak or you have any kind of breathing problems, you need to be seen."
A persistent cough could be a sign of BA.5 infection. "[BA.5′s symptoms] are like those of upper respiratory infections, such as runny nose, sore throat, headache, fever, persistent cough and fatigue," says virologist Sandra Adams, PhD, professor of biology at Montclair State University. "The symptoms are very much like the symptoms of the BA.2 and BA.4 variants. The BA.5 variant is more transmissible because it appears to evade antibody protection from previous infections and vaccines. The mutations allow BA.5 to escape neutralizing antibodies elicited by previous Omicron variants. However, vaccines and previous infections still provide protection from serious disease."
Hoarse Voice and Sore Throat
A hoarse voice and intensely sore throat (almost burning) are the most commonly reported symptoms of BA.5, according to experts. "The two symptoms that were consistently more prevalent among Omicron than among Delta cases (regardless of vaccination status) were sore throat and a hoarse voice," according to the ZOE COVID Study.
Vaccination Makes A Difference
Vaccinations can help lessen the severity of BA.5 symptoms, experts say. "Although there is still a wide range of duration and severity of symptoms with Omicron, for vaccinated individuals we find on average a shorter duration of symptoms," says Ana Valdes, MA, PhD. "This suggests that the incubation time and period of infectiousness for Omicron may also be shorter, which has now impacted workplace health policies and public health guidance."
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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