BA.5 COVID-19 variant is the new dominant strain in the local area

BA.5 represents 53.6% of new cases nationwide; 54% in Georgia and the Southeast region

CHATTANOOGA (WDEF) – There is a new dominant strain of the COVID-19 virus in town. It’s called the B-A-5 variant.

The transmission level of the B-A-5 variant in Hamilton County is high, according to the C-D-C.

It’s the only county in our viewing area with that designation.

Remember when Omicron started? Its transmission was far beyond Delta. B-A-5 is that much more beyond Omicron.

According to the C-D-C, over 53 percent of new cases nationwide are of the BA.5 variant.

In Georgia and the Southeast, the number is above the national average.

BA.5 has the ability to avoid the vaccine, and that could mean those who’ve already had COVID could get it again, and much worse this time around.

Ashley Deverell, Infectious Disease Director for the North Georgia Health District, says, “People who may have had Omicron several months ago, they may be at risk for re-infection. We may see more severe outcomes. Maybe more people being hospitalized. More people needing to see their doctor and get additional medications. Supportive treatment. So, we may see another another surge, but maybe not as big as the Omicron and Delta surges that we’ve had in the past but we could definitely see another surge of that contagious strain going around.”

It’s the reporting of COVID that’s become a problem. Ashley Deverell says the positive at-home tests are the ones people forget to tell authorities.

Deverell: “With the data that we do have, where people are seeking care providers. We have hospitalization numbers. Deaths. We have waste water that captures data. I feel like we have a pretty good pulse on where things are, but you’re right…counting case-for-case, we’re definitely under what we really are because of those at-home tests.”

You might never know you had BA.5 if you caught it. You’d have symptoms that you see in the common cold: fever, runny nose, coughing, sore throat and headaches.

If you’ve been vaccinated, Deverell says it’s not going to be a COVID killer. It’s more like body armor: something that will help protect you better than nothing.

Deverell: “With any vaccine, it’s never (a) 100% (cure rate). But, it does provide the protection you need to fight off severe illness, death, severe outcomes. Definitely the vaccine that’s out right now was created prior to the BA.4 and BA.5 variant, so it’s not perfect, but it does provide protection.”

One in five COVID-19 infections leads to long COVID.

The C-D-C believes that true infections are seven times higher than actual reports.

That means the number of people with long COVID could be growing by a hundred thousand people a day.

Categories: Chattanooga, Featured, Hamilton County, Local News, Whitfield County