UCHealth: Is BA.5 COVID-19 Subvariant Super Contagious? (And lots more)!

UCHealth: Is BA.5 COVID-19 Subvariant Super Contagious? (And lots more)!

The following article, titled “Is the BA.5 COVID-19 subvariant super contagious?” was written by Katie Kerwin McCrimmon for UCHealth Today. The story should answer all your questions about the now omnipresent BA.5 Covid subvariant.

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It seems like everyone is dealing with COVID-19 this summer — even the president of the United States.

The White House announced that President Joe Biden tested positive for the virus that causes COVID-19 on July 21. If you’re sick too, or you have friends and relatives who’ve struggled this summer, you can blame a highly infectious omicron subvariant known as BA.5.

To help you understand what is going on with COVID-19 now and what the BA.5 subvariant is, we consulted with Dr. Michelle Barron, UCHealth’s senior medical director of infection prevention and control and a professor at the University of Colorado School of Medicine on the Anschutz Medical Campus.

What is BA.5?

BA.5 is the newest subvariant to be causing COVID-19 infections. According to data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), BA.5 is now causing nearly 70% of COVID-19 infections in the U.S.

BA.5 is a subvariant of omicron, the variant that has out-competed other versions of the SARS-CoV-2 virus. That’s the virus that causes COVID-19. The original virus has evolved over time, which is typical of viruses. Omicron became the dominant variant in the beginning of 2022 and BA.5 has taken over as the dominant subvariant this summer.

Why am I hearing so much about BA.5 now?

BA.5 is a hot topic this summer because it’s incredibly infectious, much more so that the original version of the SARS-CoV-2 virus.

“BA.5 is having its moment because it has perfected how to transmit the virus from person to person,” Barron said. “The virus wants to survive. How does it survive? It keeps perpetuating itself.”

In order to spread, the BA.5 subvariant has figured out how to evade vaccines and infect people who have recovered from relatively recent cases of COVID-19.

Researchers are debating exactly how much more infectious BA.5 is. Scientists estimated that people who became infected with the original SARS-CoV-2 virus each spread it to about 2 or 3 other people. The delta variant — which dominated in late 2021 — was even more infectious. It had what scientists call an R-naught value of about 7, meaning each person who was infected with the virus could spread it to about 7 people. The omicron variants, including BA.5, are even more infectious than the delta variants. Scientists are still debating exactly how much more. One Australian statistician theorized that each person who got BA.5 could spread it to 18 others, which would put BA.5 on par with the infectiousness of measles. Other researchers are challenging that notion, and time will tell exactly how contagious BA.5 proves to be. Suffice it to say that BA.5 is easy to get.

Barron said that’s no surprise. Viruses adapt so they can spread better and survive longer.

You could think of BA.5 as a sneaky, speedy racehorse. It’s sneaky because it can bypass vaccine protection and antibodies from previous infections. And it’s fast at spreading.

BA.5 has borrowed survival skills from delta and other omicron variants that helped it spring to the front of the pack.

“It’s like a thoroughbred. When people breed horses, they find different characteristics to make the horse next level,” Barron said.

That’s how this particular variant is. It’s good at beating the competition.

I hear that BA.5 COVID-19 infections are spreading widely. Is that true?

Continue reading here to find answers to the following:

Does BA.5 make people sicker than previous COVID-19 variants or subvariants?
What should I do if I get BA.5?
How do you know if you need to see your doctor in person or you need emergency care at a hospital?
Is the BA.5 COVID-19 subvariant going to continue dominating throughout the summer and fall?
Do the current vaccines help fight BA.5?
Is BA.5 causing dangerous spikes in hospitalizations for COVID-19?
I hear BA.5 causes mild to moderate COVID-19 infections for most people. Is that true? And what does mild to moderate mean anyway?
What if I got COVID-19 recently? Can I get it again?
What are the typical symptoms of a BA.5 infection?
Are rebound symptoms typical of BA.5 COVID-19 infections?
What can I do to prevent BA.5 or other COVID-19 subvariants from infecting me?

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