Over the past two summers, COVID cases have been on the rise in Florida, and public health experts predict the pattern will repeat itself in 2022.
In fact, on a recent visit to Florida, Deborah Birx, a former White House coronavirus response coordinator, said Florida should expect a big spike in COVID this summer, likely in late June.
A summer wave could be fueled by new forms of omicron emerging in South Africa: BA.4 and BA.5. These two highly contagious sub-variants have already caused cases to quadruple in South Africa in the past two weeks, despite high levels of immunity there.
Dr. Aileen Marty, an infectious disease expert at Florida International University’s Herbert Wertheim School of Medicine, says she thinks BA.4 and BA.5 will arrive in Florida in the next few weeks.
So far, no one knows if these subvariants will compete with BA.2.12.2, an omicron variant whose presence has increased in the US and Florida in recent weeks, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and positive tests sequenced by Helix.
BA.4 and BA.5 have already spread to more than 20 countries in North America, Asia and Europe.
Here are seven things to know about BA.4 and BA.5 from early research:
- his mutations they allow you to reinfect people who have already had an omicron infection. In Florida, that group includes nearly everyone who had COVID in 2022.
- The chances of being re-infected with BA.4 or BA.5 may be higher for people who are not vaccinated, up to five times higher.
- The data from BA.4 and BA.5 reinforce the need for boosters in vulnerable people to keep antibody levels high.
- These two subvariants of omicron have already infiltrated the US with some documented cases in California.
- BA.4 and BA.5 are not evolving to give infected people a higher chance of hospitalization or death.
- BA.4 and BA.5 have mutations that allow them to spread even faster than previous versions of omicron.
- So far, the symptoms of the new variants appear quite similar to those of the typical omicron, including fever, congestion, and fatigue.
In Florida, BA.2, also known as sneaky omicron, is the dominant strain.
But that could change.
In South Africa, the BA.4 and BA.5 subvariants are more transmissible than the stealthy omicron and have replaced that strain in less than a month.
Marty says the message is not to rely on a previous infection, as immunity with the South African sub-variants is likely to arrive soon.
“Make sure you are up to date on vaccinations and boosters,” they recommended.