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I'm a Virus Expert and Here are Signs You've Had COVID

Experts reveal symptoms that indicate you've had COVID and share what to know about the virus right now. 
FACT CHECKED BY Emilia Paluszek

BA.5 is sweeping around the globe causing many cities and counties across the United States to rethink their mask mandates as cases spike. Symptoms can range from barely there you hardly notice to so severe you need medical care, but experts want two things to be clear–BA.5 is the most contagious variant to date and it can evade immunity. And even with a mild case you're not out of the woods for Long COVID. While signs of the virus can be similar to the common cold, infectious disease specialists tell Eat This, Not That! Health symptoms that indicate you'd have COVID and what to know about BA.5 right now. Read on—and to ensure your health and the health of others, don't miss these Sure Signs You've Already Had COVID.


Signs You've Had COVID

Woman suffering from sore throat.

Dr. Joe Gastaldo, OhioHealth medical director, infectious diseases tells us, "With the current circulating omicron sub-variant (BA.5), in the clinic, we are seeing more patients with COVID that present with symptoms more consistent with upper respiratory tract infections; sore throat, dry cough, and a runny nose.  Of course, the more traditional COVID symptoms still exist in people who have COVID.  According to the UK's Zoe's Health Study the top 5 COVID symptoms currently being reported are runny nose, headache, sneezing, and a persistent cough." Dr. Syeda Amna Husain, a  board-certified pediatrician who has partnered with Abbott, a COVID at home self-test adds, "With COVID-19, you may continue to have symptoms well after the "contagious period." After vaccination, symptoms may not feel as severe but can still include fever, chills, headache, muscle aches, congestion, fatigue, sore throat, and even more intense symptoms such as brain fog and shortness of breath.  If suffering from long COVID, then brain fog and shortness of breath may persist for some time. Thankfully, vaccines can also help decrease incidence of long COVID. The easiest way to know if you've had COVID-19 is to take a rapid at-home antigen test." She of course recommends Abbott's BinaxNOW (considered to be one of the most reliable) but other brands are available, including ON/GO's COVID-19 Antigen Self-Test or the QuickVue At-Home OTC test. 


How Does Someone Not Know They've Had COVID?

Woman being sick having flu sitting on bed alone at home, having high fever or temperature, touching forehead

Dr. Husain explains, "It's very likely that you may have been infected with the virus at some point without realizing it as about 40% of confirmed COVID-19 cases are asymptomatic according to a meta-analysis from the Journal of the American Medical Association. Because of this, it's still very important to test if you believe you've had exposure. Experts say the best time to test is preferably 3-5 days after exposure, even if you continue to show no symptoms."


Why Getting Reinfected with COVID is Risky

Young woman having flu

Dr. Gastaldo says, "It would be wrong to think that it's 'no big deal' to get COVID. If a person has an at-risk condition, remains unvaccinated, or is not up to date in receiving CDC recommended boosters, there is an increased risk to have severe disease that would result in hospitalization or even death. In addition, even though COVID may not result in severe disease, having a repeat infection or a post vaccination infection could result in long COVID.  Both vaccinated and unvaccinated people who contract COVID are at risk for prolonged symptoms, some of which can be debilitating.   The CDC estimates that nearly 1 in 13 adults in America after infection have Long COVID symptoms."


What Should People Know About COVID Right Now?

Infected patient in quarantine lying in bed in hospital

Dr. Husain shares, "COVID-19 is still very present in the community. The BA.5 variant is the most transmissible variant to date, so it is vital we continue to frequently wash hands and mask while in indoor public crowded places. Additionally, it's important to know that although you may feel like your usual self it is still possible to have COVID-19 (asymptomatic) and many individuals who catch COVID-19 after vaccination have very mild or no symptoms at all. Therefore, it's important to continue to frequently test yourselves and your loved ones if you've been exposed."


Why Can BA.5 Avoid Immunity?

Ill woman coughing at bed.

Dr. Husain states, "COVID-19 variants, including BA.5, are able to 'avoid immunity' due to mutation. This is a normal part of a virus' behavior. Individuals should continue vaccinating as the COVID-19 vaccine reduces the severity of disease, MIS-C, and hospitalizations."


Common Ways BA.5 is Spreading

Women with face masks down

According to Dr. Husain, "Individuals are catching COVID-19 via the same pathways as they have in the past – typically respiratory and airborne. Across the U.S., mask mandates have been lifted in a majority of settings, which allows for easier and increased transmission."  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