Omicron Subvariant Symptoms Doctors Are Seeing The Most Right Now

The BA.2 subvariant is now the dominant strain of Covid globally. Here are the signs to watch for.
BA.2 can present similarly to other strains of the virus, but there are a few key differences.
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BA.2 can present similarly to other strains of the virus, but there are a few key differences.

The highly contagious Omicron subvariant BA.2 is now the dominant strain of coronavirus around the world. Health officials have known about it since November, but they’re still learning about how it acts and how sick people infected with it are likely to get.

With that in mind, here’s what the newest subvariant means for you and your family, as well as the signs you should keep an eye out for now.

BA.2 often presents similarly to a bad cold

“So far what we’re seeing is really similar to the original Omicron variant in terms of symptoms and in terms of severity,” says Dr. Erica Johnson, an internal medicine physician at Johns Hopkins Bayview Medical Center in Baltimore who chairs the Infectious Disease Board of the American Board of Internal Medicine.

So, like the original omicron strain (BA.1), the primary symptoms of a mild BA.2 infection are a cough, fever, fatigue and possible loss of taste or smell. A runny nose, gastrointestinal issues, headache and a skin rash are other common signs and symptoms. Those are pretty similar to what people experience with a cold or other seasonal viruses.

Dr. Jennifer Lighter, a paediatric infectious disease specialist at NYU Langone Health in New York, does note that with the original Omicron strain, she saw more patients who seemed to present with upper respiratory symptoms (coughing, runny nose and sore throats) than with previous strains, which were more likely to cause lower respiratory symptoms (like a deep cough or shortness of breath). According to Lighter, BA.2 also seems to target the upper respiratory tract more like the original Omicron strain did – but again, a lot of that is just anecdotal at this point.

And of course, it is possible to get really sick from BA.2. People should continue to be on the lookout for emergency warning signs, like persistent pain or chest pressure and difficulty breathing.

That said, the real-world evidence that’s available so far suggests BA.2, like BA.1, tends to cause less severe illness. Some of that has to do with vaccination, which significantly decreases the odds of getting really sick.

So health officials are cautiously optimistic. When Dr. Anthony Fauci, the US infectious disease specialist, predicted the new Omicron subvariant may cause a jump in cases in the US, he also said that hospitalisations weren’t likely to soar, pointing to the UK, where a surge in cases has not lead to a surge in severe illness.

But remember: even ‘mild’ cases can feel pretty bad

When doctors use the term “mild” to describe illness, they are basically saying it wasn’t serious enough that the infected person required hospitalisation. So you could be experiencing “mild” symptoms of BA.2 that render you incapable of doing much of anything for days or weeks. You could feel pretty terrible, really. There’s also a chance that even a mild case of Covid-19 can lead to long Covid.

As Carl Lambert Jr., a Chicago-based family physician, previously told HuffPost, “The big question is whether or not you’re able to recuperate at home.”

If you can – even if you feel really crummy – you’ve still got what most doctors would consider a “mild” case.

If you experience any symptoms, you should test — even if you’ve already had Covid

While health officials are hopeful we’re not on the cusp of a surge of serious illness, it is still important to take a Covid-19 test if you have any symptoms. That is true even if you are already vaccinated and boosted, and even if you recently recovered from Covid-19. It is unlikely that you would get BA.1 and BA.2 in short succession (experts tend to think you’re well protected for at least 90 days), but reinfection can happen.

“If you have symptoms, you should test,” Lighter urges. “If you’re going to have an intimate dinner with someone who is significantly immune compromised, it’s a good idea to test before if it’s prevalent in your region. It’s all about gauging the risk.”

With BA.2 circulating, it is more important than ever to stay up to date on vaccines

Again, one of the reasons why experts are hopeful that BA.2 won’t cause a huge spike in hospitalisations and deaths – even as most places around the country have dropped mask mandates and other Covid-19 restrictions – is because so many people are now vaccinated.

It is important to stay on top of recommendations, because they have been changing. This week, for example, the US Food and Drug Administration authorised a second booster for adults 50 and older.

In the UK, people aged 75 years and older, residents in care homes for older people, and those aged 12 years and over with a weakened immune system will be offered a spring booster.

So make sure you stay in the loop about booster eligibility, get up to date on your jabs, and pay attention to community transmission levels.

“As long as people follow the current guidance and remain up to date from where they are right now, that’s the best thing they can do,” Johnson says.

Experts are still learning about Covid-19. The information in this story is what was known or available at the time of publication, but guidance could change as scientists discover more about the virus. To keep up to date with health advice and cases in your area, visit and