Health

BA.5 Outdoor transmission: Risk of catching COVID-19


WWhen the pandemic first started, COVID-19 seemed to be lurking around every corner, so it was a relief when scientists determined that the virus doesn’t make it easy. spread out. This summer, however, that sense of relative security has been put in place. Now BA.5 sub-variable is driving a new wave in the United States, can people count on an open atmosphere to keep them safe?

The truth is that being outside is never a surefire way to avoid the spread of COVID-19 — especially at crowded events, like music festival, which has been linked to past outbreaks. Donald Milton, professor of environmental health at the University of Maryland School of Public Health, principal investigator of continuous research on the transmission of COVID-19. Of course, “the risk is still lower indoors,” but Milton doesn’t feel comfortable in all outdoor situations. “I didn’t go to see the fireworks on July 4th, and I wasn’t in any crowds,” he said. “My outdoor activities mainly include exercise, cycling, walking and jogging.”

BA.5 seems to evade immunity to vaccines and past infections more easily than past sub-variants, which experts say increase the risk regardless of you where. “We are a more sensitive host and we are more susceptible to infection even when we are around,” said Dr. Duane Wesemann, an associate professor at Harvard Medical School and an immunologist at Brigham and Women’s Hospital. inside or outside.

While scientists are still learning about BA.5, it is becoming increasingly clear that compared to previous variants, it has the advantages of helping to overcome the defenses of the immune system. Like other Omicron sub-variants, BA.5 has developed new mutations – in this case, in the mutant protein, the part of the virus that binds to cells – that can help it evade immunity , Bing Chen, associate professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School and Boston Children’s Hospital studies molecular medicine. “Our antibodies against BA.5 are slightly less effective than those of BA.1 and Delta,” he said.

The increase in transmissibility of BA.5 and the decrease in our immune defenses means that the possibility of outdoor transmission of COVID-19 becomes more. But that doesn’t mean being outdoors won’t provide some protection—especially if you also take other precautions. As always, context matters. It’s safer to be outdoors and away from other people than in a crowd with poorer air circulation — like in a packed baseball stadium with no wind, Milton said. “The outdoors is still a place with a much lower risk of exposure than indoors,” said Linsey Marr, professor of civil and environmental engineering at Virginia Tech. “Outdoor transmission is most likely to occur during close, face-to-face conversation. There is also the potential for transmission if you happen to be close enough to and against an infected person. “

The same precautions that keep you safe indoors can also help with going out, including avoiding crowds and wearing a mask when with other people. Updating COVID-19 vaccines can also keep you safer, as the shots trigger the immune system to develop multiple defenses against COVID-19, Wesemann said. While viruses are getting better at accessing neutralizing antibodies — which help prevent infection in the first place for people — vaccines are also triggering longer-lasting types of immune responses. Ultimately, it means that vaccinated people who get infected with COVID-19 are less likely to become seriously ill or die from the disease — regardless of where they are infected.

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