Dr. Fauci Warns All Americans "Need to Pay Attention" to This Now

The expert has issued this alert as a new subvariant takes hold of the U.S.

For many people around the U.S., it might very well seem as though the worst of COVID is over. After all, both virus-related case and death counts are falling, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The agency's latest data shows that infections are down by nearly 4 percent this week compared to last and deaths have dropped by more than 20 percent. But this is hardly the first time we've seen COVID numbers decline in the last two years before shooting back up. Another surge could be imminent, especially if we turn a blind eye to certain concerns. Read on to find out what the nation's top COVID adviser is warning all Americans to pay attention to now.

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There is a new dominant COVID variant circulating around the U.S.

Medical worker wearing personal protective equipment doing corona virus swab on female patient - Covid19 test and health care concept

Even though COVID cases are falling right now, the U.S has just welcomed a new variant to the forefront. According to the CDC's latest projections, the Omicron subvariant BA.5 is now estimated to be the dominant variant in the country, accounting for around 53.6 percent of new infections. The subvariant is spreading so fast that it overtook the formerly-dominant Omicron subvariant BA.2.12.1 in just around two months. At the start of June, BA.5 was responsible for less than 10 percent of all new cases in the country, per the CDC.

Dr. Fauci just issued a warning to Americans about new variants.

Woman in medical mask with mobile phone in the bus.

In a new interview with Newsy, top White House COVID adviser Anthony Fauci, MD, sounded the alarm on the current COVID infection rate in the country. According to the infectious disease expert, the average number of daily cases is low compared to previous surges, but at over 100,000 new infections each day, it is still much higher than experts would like to see. And it could end up getting higher, especially with the new Omicron subvariants.

"We need to pay attention to [the variants] and not just blow them off," Fauci told Newsy. "We could have an uptick in cases as one variant replaces another … We will likely continue to see cases smolder and perhaps even increase."

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BA.5 is being called the "worst version" of the coronavirus.

Sick woman on couch

We've seen many different COVID variants rise over the past two years and become dominant, but the newly-dominant Omicron subvariant might be more concerning than any other iteration of the virus before it. "The Omicron subvariant BA.5 is the worst version of the virus that we've seen," Eric Topol, MD, founder and director of the Scripps Research Translational Institute in San Diego, wrote in a June 27 blog post. "It takes immune escape, already extensive, to the next level, and, as a function of that, enhanced transmissibility well beyond Omicron (BA.1) and other Omicron family variants that we've seen."

Other experts caution that it's not necessarily more concerning in terms of being any more severe or deadly than prior variants. But as Fauci noted, the high number of new infections being caused by BA.5—and its sister subvariant BA.4—allow the virus to continue to mutate and evolve over time.

"If it's less severe on a per-case basis but many, many more people get infected, it can be very bad … The fact that [BA.4 and BA.5] are ramping up nationally, taking over this space of COVID in the United States so rapidly shows us that they really are infectious," Stuart Ray, MD, a professor of medicine in the division of infectious diseases for Johns Hopkins Medicine, told Fox 9 in Los Angeles. "All these infections are just exactly the spawning ground for the next variant, although that could come from left field again … A number of analyses of the virus suggest that BA.4 and BA.5 are outliers in terms of being highly evolved, highly infectious, highly evasive, and if this virus has the potential to shift into a new gear because it's found this niche, it could pose as a risk."

Vaccine manufacturers are being advised to create new vaccines that target this subvariant.

coronavirus covid-19 vaccine bottle in hands of pharmacuetical and vaccine research scientist in laboratory, coronavirus covid-19 vaccine development

Waning immunity has been a major concern since the original Omicron variant swept the U.S. this past winter—prompting vaccine manufacturers to start working on updating their existing vaccine formulas. "Omicron is so different that, to me, it seems pretty clear we're starting to run out of ground in terms of how well these vaccines protect against symptomatic infections," Deepta Bhattacharya, PhD, an immunologist at the University of Arizona in Tucson, told The New York Times. "It's very important that we update the shots."

But in late June, an advisory panel for the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) advised manufacturers to tailor their new vaccine shots to the BA.5 subvariant and its sister subvariant BA.4, rather than the original version of Omicron. Fauci told Newsy that it's "very likely" there will be a bivalent vaccine soon, which will ultimately be a booster that contains the vaccine for the original virus alongside an updated variant-targeting vaccine. According to Fauci, this new shot could be available "sometime in October, hopefully ready for what might be a fall surge in cases."

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