What symptoms of COVID should you watch out for if a new version of omicron catches on in the US?
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released Tuesday, subvariant BA.2.12.1 is one of several variants of Omicron that have led to a spike in COVID infections in the United States in recent weeks , now responsible for almost 58% of new cases in the last week.
BA.2.12.1 is a subvariant of Omicron and evolved from the BA.2 subvariant, which has been the dominant strain in the US as of late March, according to the CDC.
It is one of several subvariants, or “sublineages,” of the omicron variant of COVID-19, with the CDC also tracking B.1.1.529 and BA 1.1, among others.
According to experts, most of the symptoms of the subvariant are the same as other COVID strains, including a stuffy nose, body aches, sore throat, sneezing, headache, cough, fatigue and more.
Researchers in the UK found that rhinitis and fatigue were slightly more common in BA.2.12.1 cases, according to NBC News.
According to the CDC, the following are symptoms of COVID infection:
- fever or chills
- shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
- muscle or body pain
- New loss of taste or smell
- Sore throat
- congestion or runny nose
- nausea or vomiting
“If you think you have a cold, if you think you have allergies, right now there’s a good chance it could be COVID given the amount of COVID around,” said Dr. Chicago Department of Health Commissioner Allison Arwady on Thursday.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends travelers get tested for COVID-19 as soon as possible before departure.
The CDC says that “early evidence suggests that BA.2.12.1 is increasing in variant fraction faster than other Omicron sublineages,” and the data seems to indicate so, with the subvariant reporting nearly 50% of new COVID cases in the United States US accounts for CDC estimates.
According to data cited by Forbes Magazine, BA.2.12.1 appears to be about 25% more portable than Omicron’s original BA.2 subvariant. For context, BA.2 was 50% more portable than the original omicron variant when it burst onto the national stage in early March.
“The virus itself continues to mutate and exhibit changes that make it more contagious,” Arwady said. “So it’s not your idea. COVID is becoming more contagious, more contagious, and that’s why these subvariants are outpacing older variants, and that’s why cases have increased. And overall, looking at the lines, we would expect to see some increases for a few more weeks.”
Experts say a large proportion of recent cases have remained relatively mild as hospitalization rates have not risen as much as cases.
Omicron subvariants have generally “caused less severe disease” than previous variants, according to the CDC, and BA.2.12.1 appears to follow the same pattern, according to experts.
There is no data showing that vaccines are less effective against this subvariant of the virus.
Pfizer says it will seek emergency use authorization for a three-dose cycle of its COVID-19 vaccine in pediatric patients ages 6 months to 5 years after releasing data from its latest study.