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July 15th, 2022--> Covid-19's latest variant: BA.5

COVID Omicron sub-variant known as BA.5, which has been referred to as "the worst version of the virus that we've seen," continues to spread around the United States. Not surprisingly, the global uptick in cases has been occurring in our practice as well at an alarming rate. 

Vaccination and previous infection provide less protection against BA.5 infection than for other variants; however, vaccination and boosters continue to provide significant protection against serious illness and hospitalization. 

 

Dr. Dominguez & Colleen Trimlett, PA ask that you stick to safe practices: 

1. Wear a mask indoors - For the best protection, wear a well-fitting, high filtration mask (KN95, KF94, N95). 

2. Maintain distance 

3. Test if you have any symptoms

Below are excerpts from an article published on 4/22/22 on American Medical Association's website. It is written by  Sara Berg, MS, Senior News Writer,  where she interviews  Nancy Crum, MD, an infectious disease specialist at Avita Health System in Galion, Ohio. They, discuss what patients need to know about the BA.2 Omicron subvariant. Dr. Crum is also an alternate delegate in the AMA House of Delegates for the Infectious Diseases Society of America. 

“With the rolling back of mask requirements and physical distancing, many people have been on a search for a new normal. But there is still reason to be cautious. The highly transmissible and contagious BA.2 Omicron subvariant—dubbed “stealth” Omicron—is now the dominant strain in the United States, causing more than 85% of all COVID-19 cases, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). This has led to more questions.”

 

Sore throat is a common symptom

“We've been seeing a lot more of sore throat and pharyngitis that we didn't really see before,” said Dr. Crum. Some of the other symptoms experienced are “very similar to the other coronaviruses such as febrile illness [fever] and respiratory symptoms [coughing & congestion].”

“Patients can also have gastrointestinal symptoms such as diarrhea, and loss of taste or loss of smell, although I’ve seen that a lot less with the newer variants,” she said, noting that symptoms for BA.2 may also include muscle or body aches, headache, nausea or vomiting, and congestion.”

“If there’s a question, you should test because SARS-CoV-2 is a virus that we have treatment for and we know this particular variant is very contagious,” she said, emphasizing that it is important to be sure that “it’s not just your allergies and you can go to your party tonight. It may be coronavirus BA.2 and you really need to stay in and quarantine for public health reasons.”

 

Vaccines and booster doses still work

“The question I'm getting now is do we need a second booster? And the answer's going to be, yes,” she said. “If you’re 50 or older and it’s been at least four months since your last booster,” or if you have a compromised immune system, you are eligible for another mRNA booster to increase protection against severe disease from COVID-19.  If you are over 50 years old since you are at a higher risk for complications from COV

Additionally, adults who received a primary vaccine and booster dose of Johnson & Johnson’s Janssen COVID-19 vaccine at least four months ago may now receive a second booster dose with an mRNA vaccine. “These days, we still just recommend people get the vaccine if you haven't because there is protection against the current circulating virus,” said Dr. Crum.

“Certainly, if you've had a COVID infection, let's say with BA.1, you would likely have some protection via natural immunity against BA.2,” said Dr. Crum.  But “vaccination is better than getting the infection and assuming protection, meaning even if you've had previous coronavirus infections, there's still a clear benefit for vaccination in terms of the immunity that you'll have against future variants,” she said.

"If you've had a COVID infection, we still want people to get vaccinated to provide them with even more protection against the variants that circulate. Studies have clearly shown the benefit of vaccination despite prior COVID infection.”

 

Long COVID is affecting many

“One of the things that's amazing about this virus is the different problems people have come in with,” Dr. Crum said. “It’s not just simply a short-term illness with a sore throat or a cough, rather up to 30% of people are having long COVID—defined as four weeks or more of symptoms—with all kinds of issues from shortness of breath to fatigue to hearing problems to dizziness to ocular symptoms [eye problems].”

“What this new variant is going to look like as far as its propensity to cause long COVID, we don’t know, but I would expect for us to see more people with long term issues,” she said. That is why it’s important “to have people protected not just for the short-term illness, but from the issues that people can have for months and maybe even years after having COVID-19.”

“For me, one of the scariest things is that it's not just the people who are hospitalized and have severe COVID that are developing long COVID,” said Dr. Crum. “In fact, a lot of the data that's emerging is that it's more common in patients who have mild COVID to develop long COVID.

“It's very common to see young, previously healthy people that now can't go back to work or now are having all these issues,” she added. “It’s not the old people or the people with severe disease. It’s really hitting people at the prime of their life and people who never were hospitalized for COVID that just can’t shake the symptoms that go on and on.

“Sometimes people say, ‘Oh, if I get COVID, no big deal,’ but that’s a very naïve because many of these patients then will develop long term symptoms, which is really horrible and often life-altering” Dr. Crum said.

“we’ve really seen the whole gamut from one day of symptoms from COVID-19 and then everything up to one year, or more, of symptoms and things are still really bad,” she said.

 

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Author
Cat Dominguez, RN, MSN

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