Dr. Eric Topol on BA.5: 'There's a wave afoot'

The highly transmissible omicron subvariant BA.5 will likely spur another wave of COVID-19 infections in the U.S., Eric Topol, MD, founder and director of the Scripps Research Translational Institute in San Diego, told The New York Times. 

BA.5 quickly rose to dominance last month, jumping from just 7.6 percent of all U.S. cases in early June to 54 percent of cases in the week ending July 2, CDC estimates show. BA.5 and another related variant, BA.4, are highly skilled at evading immunity from vaccines and past infections.

"I think there's an underappreciation of what it's going to do to the country, and it already is exerting its effect," Dr. Topol told the Times.

In countries where BA.4 and BA.5 have been dominant for some time, cases and hospitalizations have risen, though it's difficult to fairly compare to the U.S. due to differing vaccination and immunity rates.

As of July 6, the nation's seven-day case rate was 106,549, CDC data shows, far lower than the peak case average of more than 800,000 seen during this winter's omicron surge. The popularity of at-home testing clouds the nation's true infection rate, but data shows the nation's percent positivity rate is shooting up, according to the Times.

"There's a wave afoot, there's no question about it," Dr. Topol said. "My concern is the length of it."

There is no evidence to suggest BA.4 or BA.5 cause more severe illness than other omicron subvariants, according to the CDC. Experts say it's still too early to predict the magnitude of the surge and its effect on hospitalizations. 

Read the full report here.


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