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New BA.5 COVID-19 subvariant spreading quickly, poses threat to immunity

The BA.5 subvariant accounts for 54% of COVID-19 cases in the United States, according to the CDC.

SEATTLE — Health officials are sounding the alarm on the new Omicron subvariants BA.4 and BA.5, with the latter becoming the dominant variant in the United States.

The BA.5 subvariant accounts for 54% of COVID-19 cases in the U.S., according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Even as summer travel reaches pre-pandemic levels, it's a different story for people in Washington. 

As of Wednesday, data from the Washington State Department of Health shows BA.5 making up about 35% of cases while BA.2 remains the dominant subvariant. 

That's quickly changing though as just a few weeks ago, BA.5 accounted for just 4% of cases, showing how quickly the new subvariant is spreading.

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Researchers estimate it to be as much as four times more resistant to vaccine antibodies than previous Omicron variants.

In fact, the US Food and Drug Administration's Advisory Committee recently recommended vaccine makers to modify booster shots so they can target the new variants. 

Researchers warn even while symptoms across subvariants remain similar such as a sore throat, cough and fatigue, people who were infected as recently as January could be more susceptible to reinfection.

The quickly spreading new subvariants come as the CDC recommends people in 15 Washington counties to start masking up again while indoors as they reach 'high' transmission levels. 

King and Snohomish Counties both remain in "medium" transmission but health officials recommended people eligible that are eligible for booster shots to get vaccinated. 

According to the CDC, people over five years old are eligible for one booster. 

Currently, the second booster is for those 50 and older or people 12 and older who are also immunocompromised. 

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