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‘Keep your guard up’: New COVID-19 subvariant arrives in Central Florida

, Fla. — A new subvariant of the COVID-19 virus is making its way through the United States.

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Local Emergency Medicine Physician Dr. Rajiv Bahl says he’s already seeing cases of it in Central Florida.

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“Keep your guard up. COVID-19 isn’t gone as of yet,” Dr. Bahl said.

When asked directly about the new variant, BA.4.6, Dr. Bahl says it’s not something to ignore.

“The new variant going around the communities around Central Florida and the whole United States is actually a very contagious variant,” Dr. Bahl said. “It’s causing a lot of people to be sick.”

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However, Dr. Bahl says this variant appears to be less lethal than previous versions.

“Very fortunately, not many people, or not as many people as before are dying from this variant.”

Dr. Bahl says the emergency room is still getting plenty of patients coming in with COVID, but it’s slower than the earlier days of the pandemic.

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“In the emergency department, COVID-19 numbers have stayed prevalent. People are still coming in with upper respiratory symptoms,” Dr. Bahl said. “Last summer and in the years before that, we were seeing very large volumes coming into the emergency department with COVID-19 symptoms.”

Dr. Bahl says public knowledge and the accessibility of home test kits have helped.

When asked how they’re so sure the new variant is already making its way through the community, Dr. Bahl says it’s a matter of population data.

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“It’s safe to assume the new variant is going to be the same variant people are seeing around the country,” Dr. Bahl said.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, community levels of COVID-19 in Orange, Seminole and Osceola Counties are still labeled as “high.”

Dr. Bahl says the symptoms of the new variant are going to be flu-like in nature.

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“With this current variant of COVID-19 going around, most people are being treated with over-the-counter medications,” Dr. Bahl said.

Dr. Bahl says symptoms could also include cough, congestion, headaches and even migraines.

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