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Published on July 26, 2022

Everything You Need to Know About the BA.5 Omicron Subvariant of COVID-19

woman puts mask on little boy

By Cody Miller, EvergreenHealth Staff Writer

As COVID-19 takes over our headlines once again with the latest BA.5 Omicron subvariant, the anxiety we've all been dealing with for more than two years can begin to swell up and feel overwhelming.

Still, we can take comfort in everything we have learned about the virus: the mitigation measures that work against it, the vaccines we have that help prevent it and the continued efforts to get ahead of its evolution.

The BA.5 Omicron Subvariant

As the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) explains, new variants of COVID-19 have been popping up around the world since the start of the pandemic. This happens as more people become infected and the virus continues to replicate and evolve through mutations.

As for the BA.5 subvariant, it has quickly become the most dominant strain in the country. BA.5 has only been circulating since January 2022. By mid-July, BA.5 accounted for nearly 80% of the cases sampled in the U.S., according to the CDC.

The subvariant carries additional mutations that make it more transmissible and help it evade immune responses, like those developed through vaccination or previous infection.

So far, data shows that previous vaccinations and infections are especially less effective against BA.5 than older subvariants, but it is not causing more severe disease.

How to Prevent Infection

Fortunately, the most effective prevention measures against BA.5 are the same as previous COVID-19 strains: masking, hand hygiene, social distancing and vaccinations.

While BA.5 appears to evade previous immunity more effectively than previous variants, the available vaccines are still essential in not just preventing infection but also making the symptoms of the virus less severe.

Young children, the elderly and anyone with a health condition that compromises their immune system are at the highest risk of catching COVID-19 and experiencing the most severe symptoms.

Masking, especially in crowded, indoor settings, is still a mitigating tactic that is very effective in preventing disease. Because COVID-19 is an airborne virus, filtering the air you breathe as much as possible significantly decreases the chances of the BA.5 entering your system.

Social distancing also helps prevent the spread of the virus by making it harder for BA.5 to travel from an infected person to you.

The more we work to prevent infection, the healthier our community will be and the more lives we can save.

What's Next?

Currently, Pfizer and Moderna are working on a new vaccine for the virus that is more effective against the Omicron variants as well as the other known strains of COVID-19.
The companies are expected to release the new vaccines this fall.

However, it is still important that you and your loved ones are up to date on your COVID-19 vaccinations and continue to practice mitigation techniques when appropriate.

Be sure that you also have a supply of at-home tests in case you or your family aren't feeling well or have been exposed to the virus.

If you test positive for the virus or are feeling unwell, check out our guide to help you determine what level of care you should seek and how to get help finding the right care for you.

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