COVID-19 has been the biggest concern around the world for the last couple of years. Even though vaccines have been made and administered to a major part of the population, the virus still exists and is infecting people. Every time the curve seems to be flattening, a new COVID-19 strain emerges and leads to a spike in COVID-19 cases being reported.
Since December 2020, many new coronavirus variants have been identified and investigated by experts. The most recent of them all is the Omicron BA.4 and BA.5. Today, the Omicron BA.5 is one of the dominant COVID-19 strains in the US. It’s the most contagious strain of the virus found to date and can also evade immunity developed by vaccination and the COVID infection.
As we learn more about the new strain, isolate yourself from others if you are experiencing COVID-19 symptoms and are waiting for your express pcr test result.
COVID-19 Strain: Why Does the Virus Change?
New virus strains emerge as a result of a genetic change in the virus. It’s only natural for RNA viruses like coronavirus to change and evolve over time. It’s just that some viruses mutate more than others. As the number of cases of a particular virus increases, its chances of developing new variants increase as well.
So, the question is what causes viruses to change?
Viruses replicate themselves for reproduction, but they don’t make perfect copies of themselves all the time. The little errors they make while copying themselves lead to a change in their genetic blueprint. As a result, new virus strains are created. If the virus strain increases its chances of survival, it thrives.
To date, thousands of small changes have been noticed in the coronavirus, but most of them had little impact.
The New COVID-19 Strain – BA.4 and BA.5
The BA.4 and BA.5 are the new Omicron subvariants that spread fast and are responsible for the recent surges in COVID-19 cases around the globe.
The new strains were identified and reported in South Africa for the first time, but they’re expected to become dominant in the US and Europe pretty soon.
What are BA.4 and BA.5?
Since the virus first surfaced, COVID-19 has been changing its genetic outlook and mutating. These changed genetic versions of the virus are called strains or variants.
Previously, we have had the alpha and the delta variants that lead to a massive spike in COVID-19 cases. The latest, however, are the BA.4 and BA.5, and the experts are really concerned about these new variants and the destruction they may cause.
These new variants are related very closely to the Omicron variant that led to the new waves last winter. The new strains were added to the WHO’s monitoring list this March. In Europe, they have been recognized as the variants of concern.
Does The New Strain Exhibit The Same Symptoms?
Generally, all the COVID-19 variants, including the new strain, lead to similar symptoms. Most patients experience the following symptoms:
- Runny Nose
- Sore Throat
- Muscle Pain
However, there is a slight change to the symptoms that appear in the patients infected by the new BA.4 and BA.5 strain. According to early reports, the infection was mild in most individuals, and many young patients experienced severe fatigue, but there weren’t any instances of loss of smell or taste. Nevertheless, some people with the Omicron infection developed a severe illness, leading to hospitalization. The new strain can be fatal in some cases too.
So, if you experience any of these symptoms, you should look for an antigen test near me or get a fast pcr test.
How Dangerous Is It?
Experts are not yet sure how hard the BA.4 and BA.5 variants will hit the countries. However, they are not considered to be more lethal than any other COVID variants known to date. As most people have developed some immunity from vaccination and past infections, they are at low risk of getting seriously ill with the new strain.
It is, however, observed that the new Omicron subvariants are more contagious. It’s probably because of the changes in the virus and fading immunity in the infected. In addition, most countries don’t have strict COVID restrictions anymore, and people mixing more openly are increasing the spread of the virus.
If this leads to a new wave of infections, it may result in more hospitalizations and deaths.
How To Prevent An Infection With The New Strain?
Like other COVID-19 variants, the elderly and individuals with some major underlying health issues are at a greater risk of developing a serious illness with the new COVID-19 strain.
Even though the vaccines currently available can’t offer 100% protection against the new strain, they can still be your best defense. They have reduced the risk of getting a severe infection against all other major coronavirus variants previously and can protect you from BA.4 and BA.5 to some extent as well.
Doctors recommend that one should complete the COVID-19 vaccines and boosters for maximum protection. The bivalent booster is an updated booster with two mRNA components of the virus, and there is enough evidence it can offer protection against the new strain.
If you suspect you have contracted the virus, get a cheap pcr test now, isolate yourself, and wear a tightly-fitted facemask to avoid spreading it.