New data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) indicates that the latest Omicron subvariants (BA.4 and BA.5) may dominate case rates soon. In its latest report from May 29 to June 4, 13% of all new COVID-19 cases in the United States are attributed to the latest subvariants.
This recent development has led to experts voicing their concern about the virus’ transmissibility amid the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic across the nation.
“It’s a serious threat,” said Dr. David Ho, a professor of microbiology and immunology at Columbia University in New York City in an article published by CNN. “From a month ago, cases were only at .2%.”
Dr. Alex Greninger, assistant director of the University of Washington’s clinical virology laboratory also said: “For the summer, going into the winter, I expect these viruses to be out there at relatively high levels.”
Greninger added: “The betting favorite now suggests that BA.4 and BA.5 would be able to take out BA.2.12.1,”
The European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) has classified both subvariants as variants of concern (VOC), indicating a significant impact on immunity, transmissibility, and severity.
These subvariants have been gaining ground against the most prevalent BA.2.12.1 subvariant… Recent research indicates that the subvariants initially detected in South Africa are resistant to vaccines and antibodies from past COVID-19 infections. This results in a higher probability of breakthrough infections and long-COVID.
Recent studies about the BA.4 & BA.5 subvariant
Scientists have warned that the new subvariants of COVID-19 (the latest Omicron subvariants) are more contagious strains. They also caution that BA.4 and BA.5 could evade protection from previous infections and vaccinations. This would obviously lead to increased outbreaks.
Dr. Ho and his co-authors just released the results of ongoing research. Their study focuses on previously tested antibodies from vaccinated and boosted individuals – plus survivors of COVID-19 infections – against laboratory-created BA.4 and BA.5 subvariants.
In each instance, they discovered a decline in vaccine efficacy against BA.4 and BA.5.
They found that BA.4 and BA.5 subvariants are four times more likely to evade antibodies in vaccinated and boosted individuals than the BA.2 variant.
In May, the World Health Organization (WHO) urged world leaders to commit to battling emerging variants. Officials pointed out that the BA.4 and BA.5 Omicron subvariants are causing an increase in fatalities and hospitalizations in regions with high immunity.
The United States is experiencing its fourth-highest surge of COVID-19 cumulative cases, with a total of 85,402,874 cases as of this writing. Experts believe that the actual infection rate is significantly higher and that some who get the virus forgo official testing.
The most recent increase in cases coincides with the widespread elimination of mask requirements and other COVID-19-related health safeguards in American cities.
Where is the BA.4 & BA.5 subvariant more prevalent outside the US?
The latest Omicron subvariants BA.4 and BA.5 have been detected in 42 and 47 countries respectively to date – from the Americas to Europe, Asia and Africa. They are either already dominant or on their way to becoming so in almost every territory tracking variant prevalence.
In fact, ECDC reports that BA.5 is the predominant SARS-CoV-2 variant in Portugal as of May 30, 2022. It has an estimated prevalence there as high as 87%.
Since then, case numbers in Portugal have decreased, suggesting that the peak of the BA.5 wave in Portugal may have passed.
Scientists are also still uncertain whether the latest Omicron subvariants cause more severe infections, leading to an increase in hospitalizations and fatalities.
All of this indicates that BA.4 and BA.5 are more likely to cause recurrent infections, even in individuals previously infected with Covid-19.
Without improved vaccines or boosters, Dr. Ho anticipates that a large number of Americans will become ill within the next few weeks to months: “I think we will see lots of infections, but not necessarily more severe disease or deaths.”
It is important to continue testing for COVID-19 whenever you start to experience ANY of its symptoms.
This will help stop the spread of the virus and protect others from getting sick. If you have any symptoms of COVID-19, you should contact your healthcare provider and get tested as soon as possible.
Once you get tested, it’s important to isolate yourself from others until you receive your test results.
If you do test positive for COVID-19, don’t panic. Listen to the advice of your healthcare provider and local health department about possible treatment options.
By continuing to test regularly for COVID-19, we can help stop the spread of the virus and protect our communities.
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