People are getting infected en masse again as an omicron wave washes over the U.S.

However, there hasn’t been enough research yet on the severity of the new omicron subvariants, BA.4 and BA.5, said Dr. Rochelle Walensky, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, in a recent news briefing.

“We do know it to be more transmissible and more immune evading. People with prior infection, even with BA.1 or BA.2, are likely still at risk for BA.4 or BA.5,” she added.

Currently, BA.5 makes up 65% of cases in the U.S. BA.4 has a hold over 16.3% of cases, while BA.2.12.1 represents more than 17%. Meanwhile, new cases as of July 12 hovered over 180,000, but this number doesn’t tell the full story.

“We estimate that for every reported case there are seven unreported,” Ali Mokdad, professor of health metrics sciences at the University of Washington’s Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation, told CNN. Expert Dr. Peter Hotez, dean of the National School of Tropical Medicine at the Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, estimates that new cases are actually reaching close to one million per day with this BA.5 wave.

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How to protect yourself against BA.4 and BA.5?

The omicron mutations give the virus the ability to evade antibodies generated by the original or delta strain, a preliminary study found.

But the study also found that antibodies, from previous infection or vaccination, can reduce the severity of infection.

Walensky stated that those over the age of 50 are recommended to stay up-to-date with their vaccines, which includes two booster shots. Only 28% of those over 50 and 34% over 65 have received a second booster, she added.

“My message right now is very simple: It’s essential that these Americans get their second booster shot right away,” Walensky said, stating that this age group is at four times the higher risk of death without the complete, or close to complete, series of COVID-19 shots.

When to expect the new COVID-19 vaccine?

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In the press briefing, Dr. Ashish Jha, coordinator for the White House COVID-19 Response Team, said that an order for 105 million bivalent vaccine doses was placed with Pfizer more than a week ago.

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“Obviously, that will not be enough for all Americans. We are continuing to think about other orders, and talking to other companies,” she said. “But that order has been placed to get the next generation of bivalent vaccines, as directed by FDA and FDA’s recommendations about what specific makeup of that vaccine will be.”

What are the omicron symptoms to look out for?

As I previously reported, omicron subvariants have a shorter incubation period, which is why the symptoms may appear earlier.

The worst symptom typically experienced by patients has been a severe sore throat. The most common omicron-related symptoms are:

  • Cough.
  • Fatigue.
  • Congestion.
  • Runny nose.
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