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Two new omicron subvariants have emerged. Should you be concerned? | Wear the Gown

Medical professionals say they need to be watched closely as the country continues to work toward emerging from the pandemic.

SAN ANTONIO — For over two years the coronavirus has upended our lives is nearly every way possible. 

We've heard about BA.1 and BA.2, which are both omicron subvariants. There was a BA.3, but it never circulated in large numbers. But now there is BA.4 and BA.5, which are exploding in numbers already in South Africa, where the original omicron subvariants came from, and that does have medical professionals concerned.

"They are concerned, though, that they are seeing increasing numbers, and it looks like they may be a little bit more transmissible than the two that we're currently dealing with," said Dr. Jason Bowling, an associate professor of Infectious Diseases at UT Health San Antonio, and an infectious disease specialist at University Health. 

But the appearance of these variants may not be all bad news. 

"The good news is that they still been fairly subvariants of omicron. They're still closely related," Bowling said. "So there may be some changes, but they're not going to be the drastic changes that we saw with omicron and delta."  

South Africa's National Institute for Communicable Diseases reported nearly 4,000 new infections this past Sunday alone. Of those who were tested for COVID, 22% received positive results. The World Health Organization recommends levels of below 5% for communities looking to reopen after COVID's first wave.

So who is most vulnerable to get severely ill from these two new variants? 

"The concern was that people with natural immunity didn't seem to have as much neutralizing antibodies as people that were vaccinated," Bowling said. "It looked like people that were vaccinated, that immunity seems to provide a little bit better protection against BA.4 and BA.5 than just natural infection alone."  

Bowling urges anyone who isn't vaccinated to get the shot right away. They are still free, as are the boosters if you are eligible for them at this time. 

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