The virus that causes COVID-19, SARS-Cov-2, spread worldwide, causing a global pandemic, as is well-known. This pandemic led to a total lockdown of different countries and affected their economies, as not everyone could go about their businesses. The COVID-19 outbreak has led to the hospitalization of many and the loss of countless lives.
During that period, it was essential to watch for specific symptoms like fever, cough, loss of smell and taste, headache, sore throat, chest pain, etc., as these are the symptoms of COVID-19. It is advised that anyone with these symptoms should get an antigen test to know if they have been infected with the virus or not.
Like every other virus, SARS-Cov-2 changes in form. The virus, popularly known for its frequent and rapid changes, has morphed into several different variants since its discovery. These different variants all have distinguishing characteristics and, in some cases, varying symptoms and effects. There is the Alpha variant, Beta variant, Gamma variant, Delta variant, and lastly, the Omicron variant.
These variants listed above all have their lineages and sub-lineages. The Alpha variant has the B.1.1.7 and Q lineages; Beta has B.1.351 or 501.v2 lineage, Gamma has P.1 lineage, Delta has the AY and B.1.617.2 lineages, while Omicron has B.1.1.529, BA.1, BA.1.1, BA.2, BA.3, BA.4, BA.5 lineages.
The Omicron variant was first discovered in South Africa in November 2021. During this same period, people living in England, Nigeria, and the United States were also said to have been infected by the new variant.
The Omicron variant can be contracted and spread easier than the other variants whether you have been vaccinated. Compared to other variants, Omicron causes less severe cases of infection. The variant causes more lenient diseases, even though some cases of death and hospitalization may still occur.
The Omicron BA.5, the newest strain, has been very dominant in the U.S and is said to be spreading rapidly there. BA.5 being the latest of its kind has led to a lot of questions like, “Is it deadlier than the original strain?”, “Does it have different symptoms?”, “Does the COVID-19 vaccine work on it?” and many more. These questions will be covered in this article.
BA.5 is the predominant COVID-19 strain out now. Not only does this new strain spread fast, but it also evades vaccination of previous COVID-19 strains. BA.5 mutation has allowed it to move through immune systems quickly. For example, if you have Beta strain immunity, it would not protect you against the BA.5 strain.
Some symptoms of the BA.5 strain are similar to that of the previous COVID-19 strains. They include sore throat, cough, fever, muscle pain, headache, fatigue, and runny nose. These symptoms last a few weeks, but for people with long symptoms, it lasts up to four weeks or longer. Loss of sense of taste and smell is not a common symptom of the BA.5 strain.
Although Omicron BA.5 is very infectious and spreads fast, it is not likely to cause severe illnesses compared to the other COVID-19 strains. Regardless, people should take safety precautions to avoid contracting the virus, like getting vaccinated, wearing face masks, proper washing and sanitizing of hands, and, of course, social distancing. Also, people should have home COVID tests (antigen tests) to ensure they are not infected. Although antigen tests are not hundred percent reliable, they are still essential during this period.
If someone contracts the virus more than once, the risk for complications becomes higher, and there would be a higher risk of heart attack, stroke, kidney disorders, and other complications. It is highly advised that people take the COVID vaccines to prevent these complications. The vaccines would not prevent you from contracting the Omicron BA.5 variant, but they will protect you from illnesses that you may not be able to manage.
No one knows how many more COVID-19 strains will surface, so staying safe by following COVID-19 protocols and being updated on COVID-19 news is essential.