7.28.22 – What You Need to Know About the BA.5 Variant

Hi, I’m Dr. Nilesh Kalyanaraman, the Health Officer for Anne Arundel County. Welcome to our Weekly Health Update. Today, let’s shift back to talking about COVID and a topic that’s all over the news, BA.5.

What is BA.5?

BA.5 is a sub variant of Omicron. Yes, variants can have their own variants. We first saw Omicron at the end of 2021, and it caused a huge rise in cases, hospitalizations and deaths at the beginning of this year. Since then, Omicron has changed and given rise to a number of sub variants. BA.5 is one of those, and it’s causing a majority of the cases in Maryland. It’s also the most transmissible variant yet.

What’s happening with our cases, hospitalizations, and deaths?

Our daily case rate is in the low 20s, but it’s an undercount because of the high level of home testing use. There are 30 to 50 people hospitalized with COVID at any given time in our two hospitals. Overall, fewer people who are hospitalized are needing ICU care. People continue to die from COVID, with an average of 3 to 7 deaths each week for the past 3 months.

If I recently had COVID, can I still get infected?

Yes, you can get reinfected with BA.5. All Omicron sub variants can evade some of the immunity your body has built up. So even if you are vaccinated or recently had COVID, if you are exposed to COVID again, you can still develop symptoms, though they’re likely to be less severe.

What can I do to protect me and my family?

The good news is that we have all the tools we need to protect ourselves from BA.5 or any other variant of COVID.

  • Get vaccinated and boosted. Vaccines are your best line of defense, so stay up to date.
  • If you have symptoms, get tested, either with at-home tests or by PCR.
  • If you have COVID and are at higher risk for severe disease, see your doctor or go to an urgent care center right away. They can prescribe oral treatment that will help you fight COVID.
  • Use a KN95 or surgical mask on public transportation, in crowded areas and if you’re at higher risk of severe disease.

While we have the tools to better manage COVID, it’s still a dangerous disease. And remember, the tools we have only work if you use them consistently.

Stay safe and be kind to yourself and others. We’ll see you next week.

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