The new COVID strain BA.5 is now the dominant strain in the United States and is known to cause disease even in those who are vaccinated. However, because most people have now been exposed to COVID, either via vaccination or infection, the response to the new variant should be less severe.
That said, some people can develop complications, and with each new infection, your risk for stroke, heart attack, and dementia increases. Others may experience long COVID, in which symptoms last anywhere from 1 to 6 months.
Below, we asked our experts at iCare Health Services in Laurel, Maryland, to explain how the new variant spreads and what treatments are available for it.
Like all of the other variants, the BA.5 strain spreads via breathing the air next to an infected person who’s exhaling droplets contaminated with the virus, or touching the mouth and nose after being exposed to the droplets.
If you want to decrease your risk of contamination, wear a face mask to create a barrier between your face and your surroundings.
As there are no vaccines that can prevent the new variant from infecting you, Paxlovid is the only medication that can both reduce the severity of and treat illnesses caused by the new variant.
Paxlovid is a combination of nirmatrelvir and ritonavir, two antiviral drugs. The first drug, nirmatrelvir, inhibits the replication of the new COVID strain, while the second one, ritonavir, slows down liver function to allow the first drug to stay in the system longer.
Slowing down the liver detoxification pathways has consequences for other drugs you’re taking, making them more potent.
However, Paxlovid is very effective at treating severe illnesses, as it makes the risk of complications 89% lower.
Paxlovid is also used to prevent the risk of severe illness and the need for hospitalization in high-risk patients.
All the variants cause flu-like symptoms, and it’s impossible to distinguish between the common flu and COVID in the absence of a test.
Symptoms such as a runny nose, high fever, headaches, fatigue, sore throat, and muscle pain should prompt a medical visit to get tested for the new variant. Call or message us online to schedule an appointment and gain access to the latest treatments for the new variant. We can help you recover safely.