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COVID-19 Subvariant BA.5 FAQs

Learn more about the new BA.5 COVID-19 subvariant so you can minimize your risk, stay safe and keep healthy.

As we’ve seen throughout the pandemic, the virus that causes COVID-19 can mutate into many different variants. Early in 2022, BA.5 was discovered. This subvariant of Omicron is more contagious than ever. It is now one of the most common strains of COVID-19 in the US.

How did the BA.5 subvariant of COVID-19 appear?  

Every time someone gets infected with COVID-19, there is a chance that the virus will mutate. In November 2021, it was found that the SARS-CoV-2 virus had mutated to produce the Omicron variant. Since then, the Omicron variant has mutated several times, producing new strains known as subvariants.

The BA.5 subvariant was formed through a unique group of mutations on Omicron’s spike protein.

How contagious is BA.5? 
BA.5 appears to be the most contagious version of COVID-19 yet. The risk of catching BA.5 is higher, even in situations like outdoor gatherings.

Is BA.5 more severe than other Omicron subvariants?
So far, the BA.5 subvariant appears to be on par with other Omicron subvariants in terms of severity. While milder than earlier strains of COVID-19, severe outcomes and long COVID are still possible. Anyone can experience these effects, although certain individuals are more at risk.

How much immune protection do I have against BA.5?
COVID-19 vaccines, boosters, and previous infections still provide some protection against catching BA.5. However, breakthrough infections are more common with this subvariant. Vaccines still offer strong protection against severe outcomes and death from BA.5.

What are the symptoms of the BA.5 subvariant?
You can expect the same symptoms from BA.5 as from other COVID-19 variants. Most commonly, people with COVID-19 experience a runny nose, sore throat, cough, muscle pain, headache, fever, and fatigue. Symptoms typically last for around two weeks.

Are the precautions for BA.5 different than for other COVID-19 subvariants?
While many Americans are feeling the strain of maintaining COVID-19 safety protocols, the risk continues, especially for vulnerable populations. Consider what you can do to protect yourself and others in your community:

  1. Keep up to date with COVID-19 vaccines and booster shots. Vaccination is your best defense against COVID-19. Immunity wanes over time, so keep getting your shots as recommended.

  2. Wear a face mask in public, including in crowded outdoor spaces. The best protection is offered by N95 and KN95 masks. This is followed by surgical masks and then cloth masks.

  3. Wash your hands frequently, for 20 seconds each time.

  4. Avoid crowds, especially in indoor spaces with low ventilation.

  5. Use COVID-19 tests. If you feel sick or you’ve come in contact with someone who might have COVID-19, it’s best to get a test. Rapid COVID-19 tests can be purchased without a prescription. Community-based testing is also available throughout the US. Physicians Immediate Care offers rapid COVID-19 tests and PCR tests at all locations.

  6. Isolate if you think you could have COVID-19, or if you test positive. Follow your local government’s guidance on when to end your self-isolation period.   

  7. Talk about COVID-19 with the people in your life. It’s a good idea to know each other’s risk tolerance when it comes to COVID-19. Before meeting with friends and family, be upfront about things that might affect them and their loved ones. For example, if you were recently in contact with someone who was sick, or you recently went to a large event, your friends and family may want to know before meeting up.

How is the COVID-19 BA.5 subvariant treated?
Most people who catch COVID-19 will be able to recover at home. Online telehealth appointments are available from WellNow Urgent Care if you need medical advice.

If you’re at a higher risk of severe health outcomes and you test positive for COVID-19, walk in or reserve your time at any WellNow Urgent Care location to be examined by a medical provider as soon as possible. Prescription COVID-19 medications are available for higher-risk individuals. For these treatments to work the best, the sooner you start treatment, the more effective they are, ideally within a few days of symptom onset.

Even if your symptoms are mild, contact a health provider right away to see if you are eligible for medications. Factors that put you at a higher risk of severe outcomes include being over 50 years old, being unvaccinated, obesity, and having conditions such as heart disease, chronic lung disease, or a weakened immune system.

If you have severe symptoms such as difficulty breathing, chest pain, confusion, or loss of speech or mobility, seek immediate medical help.

Where Can I Go For COVID-19 Testing and Treatment?
WellNow Urgent Care is proud to offer COVID-19 testing, treatment, and advice at more than 50 clinics across the Midwest. We’re committed to providing the highest standard of medical care to our communities. Learn more and book your in-person consultation or telehealth appointment today.