Omicron mutants are on the move. It really shouldn’t surprise any of us.

The newest variants of the first Omicron have evolved and are making their way through South Africa. They are known as BA.4 and BA.5, and they are following in the footsteps of their predecessors.

They appear to be spreading faster than BA.2, which is currently dominant among the reported cases in America. However, the sub-variant, BA.2.12.1 is gaining on BA.2. As the newest mutations continue to spread, the numbers demonstrate each new variant becomes more contagious than the previous.

On a positive note, while the newest versions are spreading faster and faster, they have not become more deadly. 

It appears the virus keeps mutating into a virus that spreads faster and faster. Once it has that mastered will it begin mutating to become more deadly with each new generation? Time will tell. One scientist described the virus as being “on par with measles.”

Viruses are smart like that. They want to survive. They will continue to evolve into its better self. They become stronger and stronger with each new generation. It’s acting similar to the flu now, remaining within one family tree, if you will, rather than another entirely new strain growing its’ own family tree.

New strains within the Omicron family tree means there will be a level of immunity within the public due to being vaccinated or naturally immune from having already been infected and recovered. Unfortunately, data seems to point to anyone recovered more than three months prior has waning immunities and an increase in the risk of becoming infected by a newer strain that appear to be emerging about every six months. Sound familiar? Yep, just like the flu.

Remember when the Delta variant came calling? It was summer. Summer! Just when many of us began to feel comfortable with no masks outdoors, even among large crowds. This summer we have time in our corner in that we have more experience in making choices for ourselves assessing our personal risk along with that of others within our personal circle.

I’m just as comfortable as most these days not masking because I’m vaccinated. But, I will keep an eye on the numbers of cases in our local area along with checking the numbers for anywhere I’m traveling to now.

The numbers show a trend of increasing deaths among the older population in our country. This seems to support the waning protection offered by the vaccines over time.

Deaths from Covid have in recent months been nearly exclusively among the unvaccinated. That has begun to shift. Fatalities among the elderly increased 42 percent in January and February during Omicron’s spread and surges. Compared to 23 percent of the deaths during the surging and peak of the Delta version.

One thing is certain, vaccinated people overall weather the surges better than those not vaccinated. And even more so if boosted. So, each individual needs to consider their own risk hazard and then determine how to proceed. And, certainly we need to remain cognizant of the virus symptoms and test when we think it’s possible we might have become infected.

Additionally, if we remain aware and test when needed, it’s very possible that anyone who becomes ill can receive treatment of some sort to reduce the impact of the symptoms, including deaths.

It’s a drag. I agree. But don’t just blow off any symptoms you may experience this summer as the flu or a cold. Go ahead and take a test. For your sake, and your loved ones, especially if elderly.

And, don’t hesitate to mask up if you feel you need to do so for yourself, for a loved one, or both. You may be in the minority currently, but better to be alive and thrive than to be struggling to breathe and stay alive.

Mother’s Day is just ahead and the virus is not a gift that any mom wants. So, take and pass another test that will make your mother proud, or at least hopefully keeps her safe and healthy so you will be celebrating the holiday with her again next year.

To the mothers reading this today, I wish you a wonderful day celebrating you and what you’ve done and continue to do for your family. Be well and Happy Mother’s Day!


Rhonda Bletsh writes a weekly column, “Here to Help,” for The Madison County Record. She is not a doctor and the opinions in this column are her own. She welcomes responses by reaching her at heretohelp@mcrecordonline.com.