The growing dominance of two super-infectious omicron subvariants threatens to exacerbate California’s coronavirus outbreak, but experts and officials say there are sensible steps residents can take to protect themselves.
Taking preventative measures is particularly important now that the two strains in question – BA.4 and BA.5 in particular – have shown the ability to reinfect even those recently infected with an earlier Omicron subvariant.
“This is one of the biggest implications of BA.5: a previous infection, including an Omicron infection that occurred just last month, no longer provides robust protection against reinfection,” says Dr. Robert Wachter, Chair of the Medical School at UC San Francisco. wrote on Twitter about the weekend.
According to the latest figures from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, BA.5 accounted for an estimated 53.6% of new cases nationwide in the week-long period that ended Saturday. A month ago, the subvariant was thought to account for a little less than 10% of new cases.
“BA.5 is another beast with a new superpower: enough change in spike protein that immunity against either previous Vax or previous Omicron infections (including recent infections) doesn’t offer much protection,” it reads Guardian.
Here are some steps experts and officials say you can take to ward off these latest versions of the coronavirus:
Experts are urging people to keep up to date with their vaccinations, and that includes getting a first booster shot or a second booster shot, if it is an option. Vaccination and booster shots have been key factors in keeping hospitalizations relatively modest for the time being.
According to the latest available data from the California Department of Health and Human Services, unvaccinated individuals were more than five times more likely to contract COVID-19 than their vaccinated and boosted counterparts. They were 7.5 times more likely to be hospitalized and 14.5 times more likely to die from the disease.
Currently, the CDC recommends a second booster dose for people age 50 and older and for immunocompromised people age 12 and older at least four months after an initial booster.
Children under the age of 5 can now be vaccinated.
While the value of vaccinations and booster shots “in preventing a case of COVID or preventing transmission is far less today than it was in the past,” vaccinations “remain tremendously valuable in preventing a serious case that could result in hospitalization/death ‘ said Wachter wrote on Twitter.
Re-formulated boosters, optimized to add protection against Omicron’s latest mutations, are also expected to launch this fall.
But questions remain about how available that wording will be, considering Congress has yet to approve the billions of dollars needed for efforts to combat the pandemic, including money for pre-ordering vaccines.
That launch will likely be delayed until November to incorporate a vaccine formula developed against the newer Omicron subvariants, rather than the oldest version, which scientists fear would be relatively obsolete by then.
Some eligible residents may be wondering if they should delay their second booster shot until the updated shots are available. For the over-50s: “I would say no — there is too much COVID and the evidence of the benefits of Boost #2 is compelling.” corresponding Guardian.
“If the new booster is very effective (not guaranteed), I doubt a second boost will now prevent you from getting it [a] bivalent boost in autumn”, he wrote.
dr Peter Chin-Hong, an infectious disease expert at UC San Francisco, also said his “advice is to get a refresher now” rather than wait.
While masks are no longer required in most public places across the state, many experts say they continue to provide a worthwhile layer of protection.
California officials have consistently urged residents to wear face coverings in indoor public spaces, including stores, restaurants, theaters and family entertainment centers. Los Angeles County has gone a step further and still requires face coverings on public transit, including ridesharing, and in closed transit hubs.
“When families gather for summer barbecues, vacations and camps, the best way to avoid disrupting summer plans is to make sure everyone is up to date on vaccinations, to wear a mask when around others, often the Washing hands and staying home and away from others when they are sick,” LA County Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer said this week.
Outdoor gatherings are preferable indoors. If you must gather indoors, make the area ventilated as much as possible by opening doors and windows. Wearing masks also provides an extra layer of protection, officials say.
Health experts also recommend using rapid tests to check infection status as soon as possible before the start of a gathering — especially when the elderly or those with underlying health conditions are present, or when attendees have frequent contact with at-risk individuals.
“To conduct indoor gatherings safely, it really comes down to good masking (and no indoor eating) and ventilation. The addition of pre-event rapid tests provides additional protection,” Wachter wrote.
https://www.latimes.com/california/story/2022-07-07/how-to-protect-yourself-from-super-infectious-coronavirus-ba-5 How to protect yourself from super-infectious coronavirus’ BA.5