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New omicron variant may be the ‘worst’ yet

The BA.5 subvariant is worrying experts due to its degree of transmissibility and ability to evade antibodies

SHARE New omicron variant may be the ‘worst’ yet

Illustration of omicron variant.

Illustration by Michelle Budge, Deseret News

A new COVID-19 wave is emerging in the United States, dominantly propelled by two strong omicron strains.

First seen in South Africa, later in Portland, the BA.5 subvariant has been pegged as the “worst version” of omicron by experts, as it evades antibodies and transmits easily, according to NBC New York.

This week, the BA.5 strain alone made up 36% of cases in the U.S., while BA.4, another omicron subvariant gaining momentum, had a hold on 15.7% of infections, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention data tracker.

What are the top omicron symptoms to look out for?

As I previously reported, omicron variants 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 CDC 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.

Is it easier to get reinfected with the new omicron variants?

Before the arrival of omicron, a prior infection lowered the risk of reinfection by 84%.

A preliminary study published in the journal Science in March indicated that the risk of reinfection had now “increased substantially” with the new omicron variants, according to NPR.

These newer variants also have an ability to evade immunity from vaccines or prior infections, or both, per the Deseret News.

Expert and physician-scientist Eric Topol, a professor of molecular medicine at Scripps Research and founder and director of the Scripps Research Translational Institute, deemed BA.5 as “the worst version of the virus,” according to Fortune.

“It takes immune escape, already extensive, to the next level, and, as a function of that, enhanced transmissibility, well beyond omicron (BA.1) and other omicron family variants that we’ve seen (including BA.1.1, BA.2, BA.2.12.1, and BA.4),” he wrote earlier this week.

What are other omicron variants to watch for?

Apart from BA.5 and BA.4, which together are the dominant variants in the U.S., BA.2.12.1 is still spreading, accounting for 42% of cases.

BA.2 is currently the cause of only 5.7% of infections, while BA.1.1 and BA.1.1.529 are no longer circulating in the U.S., according to the CDC tracker.