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What’s New in Super-Infectious Omicron Subvariants – NBC Chicago

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Highly contagious mutations in the Omicron COVID variant, known as BA.5, continue to gain momentum in some countries, causing a wave of new cases and, in some cases, hospitalization, of global concern. Is causing.

Despite the uncertainties in the metrics due to the availability of COVID testing at home, rising case rates have triggered warnings in several places and renewed the masking call.

But what about new variants of particular concern? What do you need to be aware of?

This is what we have ever known.

What should I know about BA.5?

As of July 2, subvariant BA.5 accounted for nearly 54% of US BA.4 COVID cases, with nearly 17% more similar subvariants, according to the latest data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Occupy. ..

David Montefiori, a professor at the Human Vaccine Institute at Duke University Medical Center, said BA.4 and BA.5 were about three times more sensitive to neutralizing antibodies in existing COVID vaccines than the original version of the Omicron variant BA. I told NBC News that it was low. .1. Additional studies suggest that BA.4 and BA.5 are four times more resistant to antibodies from the vaccine than BA.2. The subvariant replaced Omicron in April as the predominant version of the US coronavirus.

The European Medicines Agency’s Marco Cavaleri said in an online briefing that the BA.4 and BA.5 mutations are expected to predominate across the continent and “are likely to replace all other mutations by the end of July.” rice field.

He said there is no evidence that variants make people more ill than early strains of the virus, but “increased infections among older people are beginning to turn into serious illnesses.”

Which symptoms do you need to be aware of?

In the UK, where BA.4 and BA.5 infections also make up the majority of recent COVID cases, the most common symptoms last week were runny nose, sore throat, headache, persistent cough and malaise. it was done.

According to data from, less than one-third of the people surveyed reported fever Zoe COVID Symptom Study, Allows you to self-report your symptoms via the smartphone app. Symptoms are consistent with those reported in the spring when the BA.2 subvariant was predominant in the country.

Renewal of the COVID vaccine is needed to combat the currently increasing number of cases of Omicron BA.4 and BA.5 subvariants, said Dr. Uché Blackstock, MSNBC’s healthcare contributor and head of Advancing Health Equity. I am.

According to the University of California, Davis, the reported symptoms of BA.5 are similar to those of previous COVID. Fever, runny nose, cough, sore throat, headache, muscle aches, fatigue. At this point, there seems to be no difference in the symptoms seen in BA.4 or BA.5 cases compared to previous Omicron strains.

If you have been infected with COVID before, how well are you protected from BA.5?

François Barrow, director of the University College London Institute for Genetics, said that BA.1 and BA.2 are “quite different in terms of neutralizing antibodies … BA.2, BA.4 and B.5 are essential. Can be exchanged with. ”

Therefore, people infected with BA.2 may have some protection from the latest submutants, he said. According to doctors, they spread faster than any other disease, but BA.4 and BA.5 have not been found to cause more serious diseases.

“There is really no clear evidence that they can make people more or less ill and cause serious illness or death,” said Montefiori.

Dr. Nathan Grubeau, an epidemiologist at Yale School of Public Health, said people need to understand that mutants like Omicron and BA.5 are a natural part of the virus’s progression.

“Delta will never be the last variant, and Omicron will never be the last variant,” he said, according to an article on the school’s website. , Something new will appear. “

What steps can I take to protect myself?

According to Grubaugh and other doctors, the best way to prevent new variants is to get vaccinated and boosted. They argue that the more people are fully vaccinated, the less chance the virus will spread and mutate.

The European Union said Monday that it was “important” to consider giving a second block authorities in 27 countries. coronavirus Booster shots for people between the ages of 60 and 79 and other vulnerable people as a new wave of pandemics dominates the continent.

“In the summer months, cases and hospitalizations are increasing again, so it is highly recommended to get vaccinated and boosted as soon as possible,” said Stella Kyriakides, Commissioner of the European Commission, in a statement. No, “he said.

Andrea Ammon, director of ECDC, said the new wave was caused by a highly contagious BA.5 mutation in the Omicron variant of coronavirus.

“This marks the beginning of a new wave of COVID-19 that will spread throughout the European Union,” she said. To remind people of the importance of vaccination from the first shot to the second booster. You have to start today. “

Meanwhile, New York City public health officials pointed out how high levels of COVID-19 infection were seen on Friday and urged residents to return to wearing indoor masks.

To delay the spread, the city’s Department of Health and Mental Health tweeted, “All New Yorkers wear high-quality masks such as N95, KN95, KF94 around all public indoor environments and outdoor crowds. You need to. “

What else should I know?

The spread of BA.5 also happens when scientists are worried New Omicron variant — Called BA2.75 — it has taken root in India and is emerging in other countries as well.

Scientists say new variants may spread rapidly, avoiding immunity from vaccines and previous infections. It is unclear if it can cause more serious illness than other Omicron variants, including BA.5.

Matthew Vinicker, Dean of the Department of Clinical Virology at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota, said: “But especially in India, transmission rates appear to indicate such an exponential increase,” he said, as it has not yet been determined whether it will surpass BA.5. ..

Still, the fact that even low levels of virus surveillance have already been detected in many parts of the world is “an early sign that it is widespread,” said Shishi Luo, head of infectious disease. I am saying. helixA company that provides virus sequence information to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Lipi Thukral, a scientist at the Institute of Science and Industry in New Delhi-Institute for Genome Integrated Biology, said the latest mutants have been found in several distant states of India and are more than any other mutant. He said it seems to be spreading rapidly. It has also been detected in about 10 other countries, including Australia, Germany, the United Kingdom and Canada. Two cases have recently been identified on the west coast of the United States, and Helix identified a third case in the United States last week.

It is the numerous mutations that separate this new variant from its predecessor, Omicron, that fuels expert concern. Some of these mutations, according to Vinicker, are in regions associated with peplomers, which may allow the virus to bind to cells more efficiently.

Another concern is that genetic tweaking may make it easier for the virus to bypass antibodies, the protective proteins that the body makes in response to infection from vaccines or early mutants.

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