The White House has reported that President Joe Biden is likely infected with the BA.5 variant of the omicron version of the COVID-19 virus, a highly transmissible version of the virus.
BA.5 and BA.4 are believed to be responsible for 82% of the current variants being recorded in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. According to the CDC, the omicron variant is more contagious than the original SARS-CoV-2 virus and the delta variant.
While those who have recently contracted that variant have had some of the symptoms associated with the original COVID-19 virus — headache, fatigue and cough — some are seeing symptoms that are not so common.
Dr. Peter Chin-Hong, an infectious disease specialist at the University of California, San Francisco, told The New York Times that people who contract the BA.4 or BA.5 variants are less likely to experience shortness of breath, as compared with those infected with delta or other variants of the coronavirus, but are likely to have a severe sore throat.
“Like their throat is on fire with BA.5,” said Chin-Hong. “We hear it’s the worst sore throat they’ve had.”
Dr. Joseph Khabbaza, a pulmonary and critical care physician at Cleveland Clinic, told the Times that people tend to experience upper respiratory symptoms “from the vocal cords to the tip of the nose.” Particularly “painful sinus congestion and severe sore throats,” Khabbaza added.
David Souleles, the director of the COVID-19 Response Team at the University of California, Irvine, told the Huffington Post that the most common symptoms of recent COVID-19 infections include coughs, congestion fatigue and headaches.
Research from the United Kingdom found that the most common COVID-19 symptoms in that country were runny nose, sore throat, headache, persistent cough and fatigue.
A symptom that is less seen with BA.5 is the loss of taste and smell, a common symptom with early versions of the virus.
While symptoms may differ with BA.4 and BA.5, there has been no evidence to suggest that the variants are likely to cause more severe disease.
However, many who have already had or have just contracted the virus say the symptoms they suffer are harsh.
“If you talk to the average person who had COVID, many will tell you it’s the sickest they’ve ever been without going to the hospital,” Souleles said.
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