What You Should Know About BA.2, a SARS-CoV-2 Omicron Variant

The subvariant was responsible for most COVID-19 cases in the United States in mid-2022.

A SARS-CoV-2 Omicron subvariant, BA.2, became the dominant strain of COVID-19 in the United States. The subvariant made up 74% of new infections as of April 16, 2022.

At that time, the World Health Organization (WHO) said that BA.2 is more transmissible than BA.1. Still, researchers hadn't found BA.2 to be any more severe than previous subvariants. But as case counts continued to rise in the United States and worldwide, symptoms of BA.2 entered the forefront of conversations.

Here, healthcare providers and public health experts weighed in on the symptoms they saw the most during the uptick in BA.2 cases and what to do if you start feeling ill or test positive for COVID-19.

Common Symptoms of BA.2

The most prevalent symptoms of BA.2 "often mimic symptoms of the common cold" or other seasonal viruses, Bernadette Boden-Albala, MPH, director and founding dean of the public health program at the University of California in Irvine, told Health.

According to Boden-Albala said, those symptoms may include the following:

  • Fever
  • Chills
  • Fatigue
  • Cough
  • Body aches
  • Shortness of breath
  • Sore throat

Additionally, some people may report upper respiratory symptoms, nasal congestion, stomach pain, vomiting, and diarrhea, Eric Cioe-Peña, MD, emergency department physician in New York, told Health.

Similarities and Differences With Other Variants

On the whole, BA.2 symptoms are generally similar to those of previous variants. 

"There has not been a significant change in symptoms. Usually, nasal congestion or a sore throat [are common]," explained Dr. Cioe-Peña. "But symptoms can be milder, especially in vaccinated or previously infected individuals."

Some COVID-19 symptoms, like loss of taste or smell, are seen less frequently in BA.2 infections compared to previous variants, including Delta, Boden-Albala added.

Since mid-2022, BA.2 symptoms have been similar to those of another Omicron subvariant, BA.1, which caused a spike in COVID-19 cases in the United States in late 2021 and early 2022, Michael Blaivas, MD, chief medical officer at Anavasi Diagnostics, told Health.

The Delta variant, which circulated in the United States during the summer and fall of 2021, caused more severe symptoms than those seen later in 2022, Dr. Blaivas said. 

"The original strain caused tremendous suffering with many deaths and severe illness," explained Dr. Blavias, noting that fewer people were immunized when Delta was prominent in the United States. "Omicron and its subvariants have not had such severe symptoms as we saw with the initial strain and with Delta."

Boden-Albala agreed that while the Delta and Omicron variants share many of the same symptoms, they differ in severity. 

Specifically, "BA.2 is different from Delta in that it has a much lower potential for causing severe disease and hospitalization, especially if you're vaccinated," Boden-Albala said.

What To Do If You Develop COVID-19 Symptoms

If you notice any symptoms associated with COVID-19, it's important that you get tested for active infection, especially when traveling

It's essential to test before visiting vulnerable people, Dr. Cioe-Peña said, even if you've been vaccinated and boosted.

If you're up-to-date on vaccinations recommended by the CDC, you could still develop what's known as a breakthrough infection. Testing is ensuring you don't unwittingly spread the virus to anyone else.

How To Get Tested for COVID-19

Testing can also help you determine whether you have COVID-19 or something else, according to Dr. Blaivas. 

"It's important to know that these symptoms don't only affect people who are infected with COVID. Symptoms alone cannot differentiate between COVID, allergies, [a] cold virus, flu, and other processes because there is so much overlap," explained Dr. Blaivas. "Thus, rapid and reliable COVID testing that is easily accessible is critical."

PCR tests are the most accurate way to test for COVID-19, regardless of variant type, Boden-Albala said. 

People can use an at-home test as an alternative to detect an active infection—since they are easy to use and more widely available across the country. However, it's imperative that the user correctly administer the at-home test for the most accurate result, Boden-Albala added.

"A negative at-home rapid test result means the test didn't detect the virus, but it doesn't entirely rule out infection," said Boden-Albala. "The user would need to repeat the test 24 to 48 hours later to double-check."

People who are experiencing symptoms should test repeatedly, Dr. Cioe-Peña said, especially if they are using rapid antigen tests. Having multiple negative rapid antigen test results is a good sign that you are not infected with the virus that causes COVID-19.

Preventative Measures

Experts also recommend evaluating your risk of contracting COVID-19 when you leave home and planning accordingly. For example, if community transmission is high in your county, or if you are part of a high-risk group, consider wearing a mask in crowded and indoor spaces.

"Many of the trusted sources can tell you if [COVID-19] cases are high in the community you live and work in. And you can use that data to decide whether or not to put on a mask," noted Boden-Albala.

Getting vaccinated, if you are eligible, is another critical preventative measure to reduce your risk of contracting the virus that causes COVID-19. Vaccines are highly effective against certain contagious diseases.

"As much as we want it to be, the pandemic isn't over," said Boden-Albala. "Evaluating our risk is simply part of our 'new normal'—and we need to accept that."

A Quick Review

The SARS-CoV-2 Omicron subvariant, BA.2, was the dominant strain of COVID-19 in the United States. In April 2022, BA.2 caused nearly two-thirds of new infections.

Generally, the subvariant is similar to those of previous variants but may cause less severe disease in vaccinated individuals. 

Health experts recommend continuing to check trusted sources like the CDC, WHO, and local and state health departments for evidence-based information about preventing the spread of the disease.

"There's a lot of misinformation out there, so it's critical that we practice what I call 'public health literacy' by learning where to go for accurate information and how to use it to make informed decisions about our health," added Boden-Albala.

The information in this story is accurate as of press time. However, as the situation surrounding COVID-19 continues to evolve, it's possible that some data have changed since publication. While Health is trying to keep our stories as up-to-date as possible, we also encourage readers to stay informed on news and recommendations for their own communities by using the CDC, WHO, and their local public health department as resources.

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Sources
Health.com uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Variant proportions.

  2. World Health Organization. Statement on Omicron sublineage BA.2.

  3. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Stay up to date with COVID-19 vaccines including boosters.

  4. Centers of Disease Control and Prevention. Benefits of getting a COVID-19 vaccine.

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