OKLAHOMA CITY (KFOR) – As children head back to school, University of Oklahoma Health officials want you to be aware of the COVID Ninja Variant circling throughout the metro. OU Health Officials are expecting a COVID surge with many students back in classrooms. 

The new BA.5 COVID-19 omicron subvariant, also known as the ninja COVID variant, has quickly become the most prominent strain of the virus in the U.S., and it’s right here in Oklahoma. As of earlier this week, the ninja variant accounts for almost 86 percent of cases, according to the CDC.  

“It’s certainly one of the most contagious at this point… Fortunately, it seems to cause a bit of a different syndrome in folks than the previous variants that we’ve had. And so we’re hopeful that it is not quite as deadly, not quite as dangerous per say so,” said Douglas Drevets, chief of infectious diseases at OU Health and region’s professor of medicine at OU College of Medicine. 

Doctor Douglas Dreverts said this strain of the variant spreads a lot easier and faster. 

BA.5 infections are associated with many familiar symptoms like a notably lingering cough, nasal congestion and a sore throat. 

“It changes the way that it binds and invades the cells, and so it tends to be much more in the upper respiratory tract and the lower respiratory tract… But because it tends to be up here, it also tends to not cause pneumonia nearly as much. So, in a sense, people aren’t quite as sick,” said Deverts. 

Deverts also said if you’ve had COVID around end of last year or in the beginning of this year, you’re more than likely susceptible to the current variant going around. 

“If you had that, what we’re seeing now is something that’s quite a few mutations away from that, a half a year later. Your specific immunity to that would have gone down a bit. But again, the good news is most people who get it, if they do end up in the hospital, they’re not ending up critically ill. That said, you know, on a national basis, we still have somewhere around 400 people a day who die from COVID,” said Deverts.  

OU Health Officials expect an omicron specific booster to come out this fall, but of course, experts are urging you to get booster doses even before then. 

If your child is sick, health experts recommend keeping them home and testing for COVID.