What are the symptoms of COVID you should be watching for as a new version of omicron takes hold across the U.S.?
According to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released Tuesday, the BA.2.12.1 subvariant, one of several variants of omicron that are driving an increase in COVID infections in the United States in recent weeks, is now responsible for nearly 58% of new cases over the last week.
BA.2.12.1 is a subvariant of omicron, and emerged from the BA.2 subvariant that has been the dominant strain in the U.S. since late March, according to the CDC.
It is one of several subvariants, or “sublineages,” of the omicron variant of COVID-19, with the CDC also tracking B.1.1.529 and BA 1.1, among others.
According to experts, most of the symptoms of the subvariant are the same as other strains of COVID, including a stuffy nose, body aches, sore throat, sneezing, headache, coughing, fatigue and more.
Researchers in the UK found that runny nose and fatigue were slightly more prevalent in BA.2.12.1 cases, according to NBC News.
According to the CDC, the following are symptoms of a COVID infection:
- Fever or chills
- Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
- Muscle or body aches
- New loss of taste or smell
- Sore throat
- Congestion or runny nose
- Nausea or vomiting
"If you think you have a cold, if you think you have allergies, there is a good chance right now with how much COVID is around that it could be COVID," Chicago Department of Public Health Commissioner Dr. Allison Arwady said Thursday.
The CDC says that “early evidence suggests BA.2.12.1 is increasing in variant proportion faster than other omicron sublineages,” and data seems to point to that, with the subvariant making up nearly 50% of new COVID cases in the U.S. according to CDC estimates.
According to data cited by Forbes Magazine, BA.2.12.1 appears to be approximately 25% more transmissible than the original BA.2 subvariant of omicron. For context, BA.2 was 50% more transmissible than the original omicron variant when it roared onto the national scene in early March.
"The virus itself continues to mutate and have changes that are making it more contagious," Arwady said. "So it is not your imagination. COVID is becoming more infectious, more contagious and that is why these subvariants outcompete older variants and it's why cases have been on the increase. And broadly speaking, you know, we would expect, looking at the variants, that we would see some increases still for a couple of weeks."
Experts say a large portion of recent cases have remained relatively mild, as hospitalization rates have not seen as steep of an increase as cases.
Omicron subvariants have generally “caused less-severe disease” than prior variants, according to the CDC, and BA.2.12.1 seems to be following that same pattern, according to experts.
There has been no data showing that vaccines are less effective against this subvariant of the virus.