A new subvariant, called BA.2.12.1, is steadily becoming more prominent in the United States, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). BA.2.12.1 is a subvariant of BA.2, and both descended from the original Omicron variant, which was first recorded in the Botswana and South Africa regions in November 2021. Shortly after, Omicron cases soared worldwide.
As of right now, BA.2 is still the dominant variant in the U.S., but BA.2.12.1 is steadily taking over the percentage of reported COVID-19 infections in the U.S. In mid-March, it caused only 1.5% of cases, but as of last weekend, it was responsible for 42.6%, per the CDC.
BA.2.12.1 spreads easily, experts say. It’s is believed to be up to 27% more transmissible than BA.2, according to a statement from the New York State Department of Health. For context, BA.2 is believed to be up to 50% more transmissible than the original Omicron variant, Thomas Russo, MD, infectious disease expert at the University of Buffalo Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences, tells SELF. “These new variants are really infectious,” Dr. Russo says, noting that BA.2.12.1 can spread through communities rapidly thanks to its high transmissibility.
As a growing number of BA.2.12.1 cases emerge, it’s important to keep track of the symptoms associated with the subvariant so you can get tested if you think you might have contracted it. While any coronavirus symptoms could show up in a person infected with BA.2.12.1, certain ones might be more common than others, depending on your personal health history. The known symptoms of SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, include fever and chills, shortness of breath or difficulty breathing, cough, fatigue, muscle and body aches, loss of taste, loss of smell, headache, sore throat, runny nose, congestion, nausea, and diarrhea, per the CDC. But the symptoms commonly associated with BA.2.12.1 are typically akin to those of a head cold, Dr. Russo says, explaining that sore throat, runny nose, headache, or cough should definitely prompt you to get tested for COVID-19. No new symptoms have been reported with the emergence of BA.2.12.1, Amesh Adalja, MD, a senior scholar at the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security, tells SELF.
The symptoms doctors are seeing now aren’t necessarily different from those that have been showing up over the past few months since Omicron emerged. “It’s important to remember BA.2.12.1 is still part of the Omicron lineage of COVID-19,” Dr. Adalja says. And not every possible COVID-19 symptom listed above is a definite indicator of the disease, he adds. For this reason, when you’re deciding whether or not to get tested, consider your overall health instead of one individual symptom. “Those symptoms are all a constellation,” Dr. Adalja says. For instance, if you’re only experiencing a gastrointestinal symptom, such as nausea, and you haven’t been exposed to COVID-19 to the best of your knowledge, you may not need to test immediately. But if you’re feeling nauseated in addition to experiencing other cold-like symptoms, such as runny nose and sore throat, you should probably get tested.