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Expert answers questions about new COVID-19 variant, BA.5

Dr. Gonzalo Bearman, chief of infectious diseases at VCU Health, tells us what we need to know about this newest variant and how to stay safe amid the rise in infections.

Dr. Gonzalo Bearman wearing a face mask Dr. Gonzalo Bearman, chief of infectious diseases at VCU Health

A subvariant of omicron, BA.5, has contributed to new COVID-19 infections throughout the nation. This new strain has been identified as causing the most recent spike in cases in Virginia.

Dr. Gonzalo Bearman, chief of infectious diseases at VCU Health, tells us what we need to know about this newest variant and how to stay safe amid the rise in infections.

What do we need to know about the BA.5 variant?

The BA.5 variant has become the predominant variant of COVID-19 both here in Virginia and nationwide. It's causing increasing infections and hospitalizations.

This new variant is a mutation of coronavirus, and it allows the virus to evade the immunity that is created by prior infection or by the vaccines. It may also latch itself on better or more efficiently to respiratory cells that cause infections.

I’ve received the COVID-19 vaccine and booster, should I be concerned about this new variant?

Individuals who have been immunized or have been infected before and/or immunized will likely have less severe symptoms, if they get reinfected. However, there’s still cause for concern, and we need to remain vigilant against this latest variant.

Will we see another COVID-19 wave with this variant?

Here at VCU Health, we're seeing more hospitalizations and more cases, which is the same for around the state. So, there is concern about another wave of this pandemic.

How can I keep myself and my family safe?

The best way to protect yourself is to continue to be aware of the situation. If you're not vaccinated, get vaccinated. If you're not boosted and eligible for a booster, get boosted. Continue to wear a mask, and continue to practice social distance, particularly in crowded indoor environments. There are things that can be done by everyone to minimize the risk of infection.

Is there anything else that we should know?

This is a potent reminder that COVID-19 is still here. We're going to see increases in transmission as new variants arise. I expect there will be new vaccines or new versions of the vaccine coming up for the fall and winter that will better deal with these evolving variants. Stay on top of that information and keep up-to-date with your vaccinations and boosters.

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