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New coronavirus subvariant rapidly spreads

Public health officials are looking at the subvariant's possible ability to evade vaccines.
Virus Outbreak Pediatric Vaccines
Posted at 4:37 PM, Jan 03, 2023

Three years on since the COVID-19 outbreak turned into a global pandemic and another new coronavirus variant has surfaced.

The omicron subvariant named XBB.1.5 has caused just over 40% of new coronavirus infections in the United States, the CDC says.

About 75% of new coronavirus cases in the Northeastern U.S. are from the XBB.1.5 strain.

Dr. Barbara Mahon, director of the CDC's proposed Coronavirus and Other Respiratory Viruses Division, said, "We're projecting that it's going to be the dominant variant in the Northeast region of the country and that it's going to increase in all regions of the country," CBS Newsreported.

Dr. Michael Osterholm, an infectious disease expert at the University of Minnesota, said, "Probably the worst variant that the world is facing right now is actually XBB," according to Reuters.

Dr. Jay Varma of Cornell Medicine said this is a very "precarious" time for the U.S. health care system and public health experts worry about a possible surge in infections.

Varma also said that Americans shouldn't be overly alarmed as the variant is expected to cause similar issues seen earlier this year, he toldPBS.

Experts urge the public to take similar precautions as people were asked to do earlier in the year and last year to slow the spread, including wearing a mask whenever possible, such as when traveling.

The CDC said that at this point, there isn't the belief that "XBB.1.5 is more severe" compared to COVID-19.

Public health officials also haven't reported additional symptoms tied to the XBB.1.5 strain outside of symptoms listed with previous variants and COVID-19.

Axios reported that in October, health officials deemed the XBB.1.5 variant as well suited to evade COVID-19 immunity.

A Wall Street Journal report pointed to health experts who have highlighted studies suggesting that this new variant can evade existing vaccines, antibodies from prior infections along with existing monoclonal antibody treatments.

A study in the journal Nature said, “Such rapid and simultaneous emergence of multiple variants with enormous growth advantages is unprecedented.”