Symptoms of the New Covid Variants, According to Doctors

AS WE HEAD into fall, new variants of Covid-19 are circulating. So, you may be wondering if we’ll see the same surge in cases this fall that we’ve experienced for the past couple of years.

While medical experts aren’t quite sure what the future holds regarding Covid, they say you need to be aware of the new variants that are going around, their symptoms, and how to protect yourself.

“There will always be new strains emerging, so far none of which are more virulent or lethal than what we initially experienced in the first one or two years of the pandemic,” says Henry Redel, M.D., chief of infectious disease at Saint Peter’s University Hospital in New Brunswick, New Jersey.


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Currently, the variant EG.5, also known as Eris, is causing about 20 percent of Covid infections in the U.S., Dr. Redel says. It’s derived from the highly contagious Omicron variant and doesn’t seem to be causing severe disease, but early reports show that it might be more transmissible than other variants, according to Yale Medicine.

Another new strain, BA.2.86, has been detected in the U.S. and elsewhere, but the levels are still low, Dr. Redel says. So, health officials are monitoring the variant. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says BA.2.86 might be more likely to infect people who’ve previously had Covid or received Covid vaccines.

“As we head into the fall and winter, we expect to see more variants emerge as they have in the past,” says Vincent Covelli, M.D., a board-certified infectious disease physician with PlushCare.

For now, it’s important to know the signs of the Covid strains that are already out there, including EG.5 and BA.2.86, and how to protect yourself from getting sick.

What Symptoms Should You Watch For?

The current variants are descendants of Omicron, so they’re causing similar symptoms and severity, says Brian Labus, Ph.D., M.P.H., assistant professor at the University of Nevada Las Vegas School of Public Health. “The variants that are circulating right now cause the same disease we’ve been seeing for a while.”

While there are no unique symptoms linked to the new Covid variants, Dr. Covelli says generally, Covid symptoms have started to mimic flu-like symptoms, including sore throat, muscle aches, chills, and a dry cough. Fewer patients seem to be experiencing low oxygen levels and shortness of breath.

“That’s partly due to an immunity that has developed based on vaccinations and exposure to the virus,” he says.

Here’s a refresher on Covid-19 symptoms, according to the CDC:

  • Fever or chills
  • Congestion
  • Runny nose
  • Cough
  • Muscle aches
  • Sore throat
  • Headaches
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Shortness of breath
  • New loss of taste and smell

How to Avoid Getting Sick

Even though the symptoms of the current strains are similar and not necessarily more severe than past strains, the new Covid variants appear slightly more transmissible than others, Dr. Redel says. So it’s crucial to take steps to protect yourself, including staying home and away from others when you’re sick.

And, get your Covid-19 vaccines if you haven’t already—and continue to get boosters. “It remains an important protection against severe symptoms,” Dr. Covelli says.

New boosters are expected to be available in mid to late September, which will help protect against the new Covid strains. The new shots target the XBB.1.5 omicron subvariant, which isn’t the dominant strain now. But experts say they should still offer protection against the new variants.

Should You Get Tested If You Have Symptoms?

It’s a good idea to get tested for Covid if you have symptoms via an at-home test or local testing site. The CDC has an online testing locator to help you find free tests in your area.

The CDC recommends isolating for five days if you test positive for Covid. Also, isolate if you have Covid symptoms but haven’t gotten tested yet.

Keep in mind that Covid will likely continue to evolve and new variants will keep appearing this fall and winter and beyond, Labus says. It’s possible that future variants could bring new symptoms.

“Viruses have to change in order to keep pace with our immune systems, and we will continue to see new variants emerge as long as the virus continues to spread,” he explains.

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Erica Sweeney is a writer who mostly covers health, wellness and careers. She has written for The New York Times, HuffPost, Teen Vogue, Parade, Money, Business Insider and many more.

This article was originally posted here.

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