The omicron subvariant BA.5 is gaining a strong foothold in the United States, accounting for more than 50% of cases in a month’s time due to its high transmissibility and the ability to evade antibodies.

Together with the other new subvariant BA.4, cases and hospitalizations have surged, per The New York Times.

The seven day average of cases in the U.S. as of July 7 was 106,549, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s data tracker. The number of infections is lower than what previous COVID-19 waves have brought on, like the wave in January that skyrocketed to low seven-digit numbers, but the number of cases are still trending upward, per the report.

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While the CDC said there is no evidence that the two subvariants are more severe than others, it’s clear that immunity through previous infection or vaccination is not as effective against them.

What are experts saying?

Many scientists agree that the pandemic is not over, including Jason Salemi, an associate professor of epidemiology at the University of South Florida’s College of Public Health.

“We’re seeing dramatic increases in the number of cases and hospitalizations in many places throughout the United States,” said Salemi, per The Guardian.

“We’ve seen it coming for a while … We’ve seen it go pretty unabated.”

The CDC estimates that 1 in 5 people in the U.S. live in areas that are at high risk from COVID-19, while close to 4 in 10 are at medium risk, putting a large chunk of the population — especially the older age groups — more vulnerable to infection than it’s been since Feburary, Salemi added.

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Dr. Eric Topol, founder and director of the Scripps Research Translational Institute, pegged BA.5 as “the worst version of the virus that we’ve seen” in a Substack blog published in late June. In conversation with The New York Times, Topol addressed the present situation: “There’s a wave afoot, there’s no question about it.”

“My concern is the length of it,” he added.

What are the variants of concern?

The World Health Organization monitors the COVID-19 variants, labeling certain mutations as variants of concern.

Omicron is deemed as a variant of concern, while 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 — are being closely watched.

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The spike proteins in BA.4 and BA.5 have mutations that differentiate it from the earlier forms of the virus but the newest strain, BA.2.75, has even more mutations, meaning that it could create a wave of its own.

What are the top omicron symptoms?

As I previously reported, 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.
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