The New COVID Symptom You Need to Know Now
BA.5 is driving up cases and hospitalizations in the US, and people are reporting new symptoms connected to the now-dominant Omicron subvariant. "Every time there's a new variant around, there's a lot of talk about, you know, is it going to be more or less severe? Is it going to cause different symptoms? Is it going to trick us because it's going to have new symptoms? And, generally, COVID-19 is COVID-19," says Shira Doron, MD, from Tufts Medical Center in Boston, MA. "You can see some fluctuations over time from variant to variant and what symptoms predominate." Here are the new symptoms of BA.5 to be aware of. Read on—and to ensure your health and the health of others, don't miss these Sure Signs You've Already Had COVID.
BA.5 Is More Resistant to Antibodies
BA.5 is evading past immunity from vaccines and previous infection, doctors warn. "We do not know about the clinical severity of BA.4 and BA.5 in comparison to our other Omicron subvariants," says CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky. "But we do know it to be more transmissible and more immune-evading. People with prior infection, even with BA.1 and BA.2, are likely still at risk for BA.4 or BA.5."
BA.5 Cases Are Higher We Know
Thanks to the widespread prevalence of at-home testing, experts believe the numbers on BA.5 are not an accurate representation of what is actually happening. "We estimate that for every reported case there are 7 unreported," says Ali Mokdad, professor of health metrics sciences at the University of Washington's Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation.
"We're hearing a lot about back and neck aches and pains," says William Shaffner, MD, professor of medicine in the Division of Infectious Diseases at the Vanderbilt University School of Medicine. "It's all anecdotal, but as people have looked at previous variants, the distinctions between the variants have not been very large."
Loss Of Smell and Taste
People infected with BA.5 are reporting a loss of smell and taste—a common symptom in earlier variants, experts say. "You can see some fluctuations over time from variant to variant and what symptoms predominate," Dr. Doron says. "Sometimes it seems as if sore throat might be more or less associated with certain variants. Loss of smell or taste might look more or less associated with certain variants. And it is thought that perhaps there's less loss of smell with this particular subvariant."
Hoarse Voice and Sore Throat
A hoarse voice and sore throat are now the most commonly reported symptoms of BA.5, experts say. "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.
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.