COVID-19 cases are surging in the U.S. because of a highly transmissible variant, leaving the whole population susceptible to reinfection.

Driven by the BA.5 subvariant that alone accounts for 77.9% of reported cases in the United States, hospitalizations started rising after lower infection rates in April, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention tracker.

Hospitalizations have doubled compared to numbers in April and the first half of May. The current seven-day average number of admissions is more than 5,500. That number is still low compared to the average of more than 21,500 hospitalizations in early January.

BA.4 and BA.5: This is the worst omicron symptom
New omicron variants target lungs and escape antibodies
New omicron subvariants vs. vaccines: Here’s what you need to know

Can you get reinfected with the new omicron subvariant?

In a press briefing last week, Dr. Anthony Fauci, the president’s chief medical adviser, explained that since June of last year, “successive variants, due to mutational changes, have essentially bumped one variant off the table after the other, leading to the broader category of omicron — where we are right now.”

But, he continued, omicron is a bigger problem than other variants, like alpha, beta and delta.

“Omicron, as a broad category, has multiple sublineages with BA.1, BA.2, BA.2.12.1. And now, what we’re currently challenged with is the BA.4, 5 — particularly the BA.5,” he said, adding that these successive subvariants are more transmissible than the original COVID-19 strains.

Although BA.4 and BA.5 aren’t associated with a more severe infection, they do have the ability to evade antibodies acquired through vaccines or a previous infection.

“The high level of immunity in the population is likely exerting selection pressure on the virus and the virus is evolving to try to get around that immunity,” Daniel Barouch, director of the Center for Virology and Vaccine Research at the Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, told Vox.

Can you protect yourself against the omicron?

The CDC has said there is no evidence that the two new subvariants are more severe than others, but it is clear that immunity acquired through previous infection or vaccination is not as effective against them, as I previously reported.

If vaccines aren’t preventing infections, then what are they doing? Dr. Sandra Adams, a professor of biology and virologist at Montclair State University, told NJ Advance Media that the newer mutations allow new strains to evade antibodies. “However, vaccines and previous infections still provide protection from serious disease,” she said.

Omicron subvariant BA.5 is spreading quickly in Ontario
New omicron variants target lungs and escape antibodies

What are other new omicron subvariants?

The omicron was deemed a variant of concern, with some of its lineages — BA.2.75, BA.13, BA.2.11, BA.2.9.1, BA.2.12.1, BA.4 and BA.5 — being closely monitored.

View Comments

The newest omicron subvariant is BA.2.75, with many new mutations that could leave to a wave of its own, as the Deseret News reported.

What are the top omicron symptoms?

Omicron subvariants have a shorter incubation period, which is why the symptoms may appear earlier.

The most common omicron-related symptoms are:

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

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has listed common symptoms for COVID-19. The symptoms are:

  • 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.
Join the Conversation
Looking for comments?
Find comments in their new home! Click the buttons at the top or within the article to view them — or use the button below for quick access.