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What is the new Covid BA.5 subvariant and what are the symptoms?

What is the new Covid BA.5 subvariant and what are the symptoms?

C

ovid cases in the UK have rapidly risen and may soon reach record levels, according to Zoe Health Study.

Despite Covid measures and free testing for the public being scrapped in April, 2022, the study has been tracking case numbers.

There are currently 285,507 daily symptomatic cases in the country, which is a 27 per cent rise from the previous week’s figures of 225,464 cases. The rapid rise takes the current case number closer to the previous high of 350,000 in March, 2022.

Tim Spector, Professor of Genetic Epidemiology at King’s College London, predicts an increase in cases over the next week and attributes this to the BA.5 Omicron subvariant.

He said: “This variant is particularly good at immune escape, causing an increase in reinfections in people in spite of vaccines and natural immunity, particularly over the past few weeks.

“With the large numbers of festivals happening, I predict rates will continue to rise for the next week or so.”

With cases rising, many are wondering what the new Covid BA.5 strain is and what symptoms to look out for. Here’s everything you need to know.

What is the Covid BA.5 subvariant?

Over time, Covid has mutated into a range of variants and strains since the virus first emerged.

The key variants the UK has been exposed to so far include alpha, delta and Omicron, with each encompassing different symptoms and levels of contagiousness.

And now, experts are looking into the BA.4 and BA.5 strains, which are linked to the Omicron variant – a strain that led to a huge rise in cases in winter.

The two new strains were added to the World Health Organisation’s monitoring list in March, 2022, but with case numbers rising, experts are concerned BA.5 could be to blame for the steep rise in infections.

And, researchers at Harvard Medical School found that both new variants appeared to evade antibodies people had built up from having previous Covid infections or three vaccine doses.

On May 6, the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) designated BA.4 and BA.5 as variants of concern in Britain, with UKHSA stating they account for 61 per cent of all Covid cases reported on June 24.

What are the Covid symptoms of the new BA.5 subvariant?

There is “currently no evidence” that the BA.4 and BA.5 Covid subvariants can cause more serious illness than previous Covid strains, according to the UKHSA.

As subvariants of Omicron, they may have different symptoms to that of the original virus.

The ZOE Covid study revealed that the most common symptoms of Omicron were a sore throat, a hoarse voice and headaches.

However, there is currently no evidence to suggest that the BA.4 and BA.5 strains do not present the recognised Covid symptoms.

The NHS lists these as:

  • A high temperature
  • Shivering
  • A new or continuous cough
  • Changes to your sense of smell or taste
  • A sore throat
  • Shortness of breath
  • Body aches
  • Headaches
  • Blocked or runny nose
  • Loss of appetite
  • Diarrhoea
  • Feeling sick or vomiting

Scientists are yet to identify whether the two new subvariants have different or new symptoms.

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