COVID-19 restrictions have been lifted across the United States, but that doesn’t mean the pandemic is over. As much as we’d all love to never deal with COVID again, the virus hasn’t been eradicated. In fact, it continues to mutate and the latest dominant strain is BA.2. Eat This, Not That! Health spoke with Dr. Janice Johnston, MD, Chief Medical Officer & Co-Founder at Redirect Health who explains signs you’ve had BA.2 and everything to know about the latest variant. Read on—and to ensure your health and the health of others, don’t miss these Sure Signs You’ve Already Had COVID.
1 – What is BA.2 and How it Became the Dominant Strain
Dr. Johnston says, “BA.2 is a variant of the COVID-19 virus, more specifically a subvariant of the Omicron strain. As of March 2022, the BA.2 variant was considered to be the dominant strain worldwide. BA.2 is considered to be more transmissible than BA.1, the previous dominant strain. Its high contagiousness is why it has taken over as the most commonly found strain.”
2 – How BA.2 is Different From the Other Variants
Dr. Johnston explains, “While the BA.2 variant is a subvariant of Omicron, it still presents some differences. For one, BA.2 spreads faster and seems to be more resistant to treatments given its ability to replicate itself quicker than other variants. It can also cause symptoms that are experienced to be more severe. Vaccinations and natural immunity seem to be about the same compared to the BA.1 Omicron subvariant.”
3 – There Could Be Another Surge
According to Dr. Johnston, “Certain countries in Europe such as the UK have seen rising hospitalization rates likely due to the BA.2 variant. This leaves many people wondering if the same could happen in the United States. It may take a few more weeks to find out for sure how the U.S. will be affected. In the northeast, we have seen a small rise in cases, so the rest of the country may see a similar increase in the near future. It is likely that we will continue to see a rise, however, the severity of the rise of cases will vary by location relative to population and vaccinations in that area.”
4 – How Effective is the Vaccine Against BA.2 and Why are Vaccinated People Still Getting the Virus?
“Vaccine and natural immunity have shown about the same effectiveness with BA.2 as with the BA.1 Omicron subvariant,” says Dr. Johnston. “Boosters have also shown to be about the same effectiveness. People can still experience breakthrough cases even after vaccination and boosters. This is because immunity naturally wanes over time, but even if you recently received the shot, the vaccine effectiveness is not at 100%, so while it still remains a strong protectant against COVID-19, it is not impossible to get it. It is important to note that even if a vaccinated individual does get COVID-19, the severity and likelihood of hospitalization is significantly reduced.”
5 – What Should People Know About COVID Right Now?
Dr. Johnston states, “While in many areas cases and mask mandates are being lifted for travel and other public spaces, it is still important to be aware of the health and safety of you and those around you. Masks may not be required in most places but are still recommended by the CDC for certain regions and for certain groups of people, in order to prevent the spread of COVID-19, as well as proper handwashing. Additionally, if you are experiencing any symptoms of COVID-19, you should stay home and get tested before going in public or back to work. Vaccines are also still strongly recommended by the CDC to prevent infection or severe side effects of COVID-19. The FDA has approved a second booster for those 50 and older or with underlying conditions.”
6 – Signs That Indicate You’ve Had BA.2
Dr. Johnston explains, “The symptoms of the BA.2 subvariant are very subtly different from other variants of COVID-19 and can closely mimic symptoms of seasonal allergies. The biggest difference between seasonal allergies and BA.2 is that seasonal allergies often include itchiness and watering of the eyes and itchy nose. Itchiness is not typically observed with COVID-19 or BA.2.
Symptoms of COVID-19 and BA.2 that are not typically observed with seasonal allergies include:
- Loss of taste or smell
- Runny nose, but no itchiness
Some key symptoms of BA.2 that are observed more often than with other COVID-19 variants include:
- Runny nose
- Sore throat
7 – How Long Can COVID Stay in the Air and on Surfaces?
Dr. Johnston reveals, “COVID has been known to live in the air for up to 3 hours, however, it can vary greatly how long it lasts on other surfaces, depending on the material of the surface. For surfaces that are considered non-porous like plastic, glass, or stainless steel, the virus can be expected to live up to 3 days. Using a disinfectant product registered by the EPA is the most effective way to kill the virus living on surfaces. If someone who has been sick with COVID has been around a certain area, it is important to clean all nearby surfaces with a disinfectant. Soap and water can also reduce risk, although it won’t be quite as effective as a disinfectant. The most likely route COVID is transmitted however is through air droplets, so proper airflow is crucial.”
8 – How to Stay Safe Out There
Follow the public health fundamentals and help end this pandemic, no matter where you live—get vaccinated or boosted ASAP; if you live in an area with low vaccination rates, wear an N95 face mask, don’t travel, social distance, avoid large crowds, don’t go indoors with people you’re not sheltering with (especially in bars), practice good hand hygiene, and to protect your life and the lives of others, don’t visit any of these 35 Places You’re Most Likely to Catch COVID.
From: Eat This, Not That!