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'It's something we haven't seen in a while': New BA.5 omicron subvariant carries a symptom from the delta variant wave

"We’ve started getting anecdotal evidence that there’s anosmia, which is that loss of smell," Dr. Shane Fernando said.

FORT WORTH, Texas — If it seems like a lot of people you know are getting infected with COVID-19 for the second or third time, you're not crazy. 

If it seems like the people getting infected are showing symptoms after being asymptomatic the time before, you're not making that up either. 

“These two subvariants are just very good at infecting people," Dr. Shane Fernando, a clinical epidemiologist at UNT Health Science Center, said. 

Dr. Fernando said the BA.4 and BA.5 omicron subvariants are essentially like the children of the parent omicron variant. 

BA.5 is the major problem child. 

“It’s the one most responsible for the COVID waves around the world," Dr. Fernando said. 

The BA.5 subvariant currently makes up about 80% of current COVID infections. Dr. Fernando said it spreads about 4.2 times faster than the omicron variant and stands up well against natural immunity from past infections. However, he said staying up-to-date on vaccines and boosters is still important. 

"That severity of disease is determined by whether or not you are vaccinated," Dr. Fernando said. 

Stephen Love, president and CEO of the DFW Hospital Council, said there were 753 hospitalized COVID-19 patients in North Texas hospitals on Thursday. He said that number continues to rise slowly, but steadily. He said a vast majority of those patients are unvaccinated.

The BA.5 subvariant, like the omicron variant, carries symptoms like congestion, sore throat, fatigue and a persistent cough. 

"It almost feels like you're having a bit of an allergic reaction," Dr. Fernando said. 

However, recent cases show patients testing positive for the BA.5 subvariant had a "throwback" symptom. 

"We’ve started getting anecdotal evidence that there’s anosmia, which is that loss of smell," Dr. Fernando said. “It’s something we haven’t seen in a while. It was very prevalent with the delta variant. Remember delta? It feels like forever ago.”

Dr. Fernando said the studies, like the subvariant, are new. He said it's not clear how many patients with BA.5 subvariant lost their smell. 

The CDC recently upgraded the COVID-19 risk levels to "high" for Tarrant, Collin and Dallas counties. That level comes with the recommendation to wear masks indoors. 

Last week, Denton County was upgraded from a "low" risk level to "high."

“The thing to remember is this virus is still here. It’s still infecting people, and it’s still killing people," Dr. Fernando said.

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