The BA.5 omicron subvariant is now the dominant COVID-19 strain across the nation, while accounting for almost half of infections in New York, according to the latest Centers for Disease Control and Prevention data.
This subvariant of omicron is especially adept at infecting vaccinated people or those with natural immunity from previous infections, according to experts.
According to the data, 46.2% of infections for the week ending July 2 were BA.5 in New York, New Jersey, Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands — and 53.6% nationwide. (The CDC groups these places in its estimate.)
The data comes as the U.S. has moved closer to updating COVID-19 boosters for the autumn: late last month, government advisers voted to recommend modified shots that better respond to the latest virus strains.
Although the formula has yet to be decided, it’s expected that a tweaked booster would be made to offer specific protect against omicron and its subvariants, which began to sweep the world starting around Thanksgiving. Omicron and its subvariants are more infectious than their ancestors but appear to be less deadly.
In the Mount Sinai health system, the rate of the new subvariant represents between an estimated 25% and 50% of lab tests, according to Dr. Aaron Glatt, the chairman of Mount Sinai South Nassau hospital’s department of medicine.
“The infectiousness of the newer strains is probably more than the older ones, but the likelihood of causing severe illnesses is probably unchanged” from the original omicron, he said.
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