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What to know about new COVID-19 subvariants driving up cases in Indiana

BA.5, a subvariant of omicron, accounts for nearly 54% of the country’s current cases and may be the most contagious version yet.

INDIANAPOLIS — Experts are calling two new COVID-19 subvariants “wild cards” after they have been shown to evade vaccines and previous infections.  

BA.5, a subvariant of omicron, currently accounts for nearly 54% of the country’s cases and is believed to be the most contagious version yet. 

BA.4 makes up just 17% of cases. 

Health experts say these new strains are fueling a wave of new cases in the U.S. and other parts of the world.  

“These variants are even more transmissible than those earlier forms of omicron,” said Dr. Brian Dixon, director of public and population health informatics at the Regenstrief Institute. 

Even though the subvariant BA.5 is more contagious, Dixon said it’s not as severe as earlier strains. However, early research shows it can re-infect someone as quickly as four to six weeks. 

RELATED: FDA panel recommends updating COVID booster shots to fight variants this fall

“This is a whole new ballgame, so to speak, when it comes to the variants and the fact that someone can be sick right now with COVID-19 and then get it again in the fall, or even as early as late August,” Dixon said.  

In Indiana, about 20 percent of new cases are reinfections, which is something the state hasn’t reported before

“What we are finding is this particular strain in the virus is not as susceptible to antibodies in our system, whether those antibodies were developed through natural infection or vaccination,” Dixon said.  

RELATED: Pfizer says tweaked COVID-19 shots boost omicron protection

Since the new subvariant BA.5 is so contagious, health experts are worried about another surge this fall, warning it could come earlier. 

“We may see cases pick up a little bit earlier, say late July or even mid-August, as opposed to waiting 'til the actual fall for a surge of cases to come,” Dixon said. 

Currently, nine Indiana counties were listed on the CDC data map as having a "high" community risk of spreading COVID-19, while 43 counties are listed as "medium" risk. 

For better protection, the FDA recently told vaccine makers that booster shots need to be tweaked for the fall to add protection against the new omicron variants. 

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