What Are the Symptoms of Omicron Subvariants BA.4 and BA.5?


In June, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported that the Omicron subvariants BA.4 and BA.5 had become dominant in the U.S. The agency revised that statement on July 5 to say that BA.5 made up over half of new cases in the country.

Experts said that, in general, these subvariants do not have markedly divergent symptoms from earlier versions of Omicron. People infected with BA.4 and BA.5 may develop a cough, runny nose, sore throat, fatigue, headaches and muscle pains. However, they are less likely to lose their senses of taste and smell, or to experience shortness of breath, as compared with those infected with Delta or other variants of the coronavirus, said Dr. Peter Chin-Hong, an infectious disease specialist at the University of California, San Francisco.

Dr. Joseph Khabbaza, a pulmonary and critical care physician at Cleveland Clinic, said people tend to experience upper respiratory symptoms “from the vocal cords to the tip of the nose.” Anecdotally, he said, he has seen more patients with painful sinus congestion and severe sore throats who have tested positive for Covid-19 while BA.4 and BA.5 have been circulating. Some of them thought they had strep throat because they were in so much pain, he said.

There also is not yet evidence to indicate that these subvariants cause more severe disease than past versions of Omicron. But BA.4 and BA.5 are more contagious, which means that as more people become infected, both adult and pediatric hospitalizations are increasing, said Dr. Adam Ratner, director of the division of pediatric infectious diseases at Hassenfeld Children’s Hospital at N.Y.U. Langone.