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COVID-19 isn’t finished with us, regardless of us being finished with it. And while the current subvariant BA.2 might not be as deadly as previous strains or cause a new spike, it’s still concerning. Here’s why.

Omicron, as opposed to the delta variant, has three main subvariants creatively named: BA.1, BA.2 and BA.3. BA.1 was predominantly responsible for the winter 2021 spike. It has over 30 mutants in the spike protein affecting how infectious it is and whether it can escape protection of a vaccination or a previous COVID-19 infection. BA.2 has eight mutations not found in BA.1 but lacks 13 mutations in it. They both, however, share around 30 mutations, meaning BA.2 spreads faster although it may not make us as sick.

Nonetheless, BA.2 can make us sick.

A unique symptom of omicron BA.1 and BA.2 are night sweats. The loss of taste and smell doesn’t appear to be as common as with the delta variant. Other symptoms include cough, fatigue and congestion or runny nose, making it difficult to distinguish from another virus. What makes BA.2 so transmittable?

“It’s probably that there’s more of it being released into the air, or it takes exposure to less of it to get infected, or it evades the immune system better,” said Linsey Marr, an aerosol expert at Virginia Tech.

Being fully vaccinated and up to date on boosters remain the best way to protect from a severe case. But with time since many people were originally immunized and then boosted, plus the evolution of the virus, the vaccines aren’t preventing infection as well as they once did. Still, the vaccines continue to perform well, preventing being on a ventilator and/or death.

“[These] omicron [variants] ... are so highly contagious that they can still infect you, despite the fact that you have been vaccinated and boosted,” said William Schaffner, medical director of the National Foundation for Infectious Diseases and professor at Vanderbilt University. “For the average person, that means you will have few symptoms or perhaps no symptoms at all. You will not get seriously ill.”

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But that’s the average person.

BA.2 can make us sick, and that exposes us to long COVID-19, with the risk of hospitalization like BA.1.

The number of people and exact symptoms of long-term COVID-19 vary according to the definition used, the population studied and the time of the study. A survey in the United Kingdom estimated that about 14% of people who tested positive for COVID-19 experienced one or more symptoms for more than three months. A University of Oxford study of 273,618 survivors of COVID-19, mainly from the United States, showed that about 37% experienced one or more symptoms between three and six months after diagnosis.

Another study of 3,762 participants found that illnesses lasting more than 28 days had recovery taking longer than 35 weeks for 91% of them, and symptom relapses occurred in 86 percent of participants triggered mainly by physical or mental effort or by stress.

The symptoms varied over time, with the most common after six months being fatigue, post-exertional malaise and cognitive (mental) dysfunction. Other symptoms included: long-lasting cough; muscle weakness; low-grade fever; inability to concentrate (brain fog); memory lapses; changes in mood or depression; sleep difficulties; headaches; joint pain; needle pains in arms and legs; diarrhea; vomiting; loss or changes in sense of taste or smell; sore throat and/or difficulty swallowing; blood disorders (including new onsets of diabetes and hypertension); heartburn; skin rash; shortness of breath; chest pains; palpitations; kidney problems; oral health (teeth, saliva, gums); tinnitus; and blood clotting, including deep-vein thrombosis and pulmonary embolism.

What should we do? Take precautions. Get the vaccine, if you haven’t already, and get all the shots, including boosters, as you’re eligible. I just got my second booster. While vaccines are not a 100% guarantee, they’re better than if we did nothing.

Tom Crouser is a business consultant living in Mink Shoals. Reach him at tom

@crouser.com and follow

@TomCrouser on Twitter. Also connect via Facebook and LinkedIn.

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