New XBB.1.5 COVID subvariant ‘most transmissible’ - WHO | Daily News

New XBB.1.5 COVID subvariant ‘most transmissible’ - WHO

WHO’s technical lead on COVID-19 pandemic  Maria Van Kerkhove
WHO’s technical lead on COVID-19 pandemic Maria Van Kerkhove

SWITZERLAND: The World Health Organization is warning that a new omicron subvariant known as XBB.1.5 is the most  transmissible strain to date.“We are concerned about [XBB.1.5’s] growth advantage” in Europe and the U.S. Northeast, said Maria Van Kerkhove, the World Health Organization’s COVID-19 technical lead, at a press conference. XBB.1.5 had rapidly replaced other circulating variants in those areas, she added.

As COVID-19 hospitalizations rise in some parts of the Northeast -- where the subvariant makes up about an estimated 75% of new cases, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention -- so are concerns about how to mitigate a potential surge following large holiday gatherings.

In the past few years, the post-holiday rise in COVID numbers was typically attributed to large gatherings and the colder weather bringing people indoors. Experts said it remains to be seen how much XBB.1.5 may be contributing to the most recent rise in hospitalizations.

“We don’t fully know what this variant is doing in the population, especially since every time a new variant emerges it’s not happening in a bubble … so it’s very difficult to tease apart what might be driving, for instance, increases in hospitalizations,” said Dr. John Brownstein, an ABC News contributor and chief innovation officer at Boston Children’s Hospital.

Very little is known about this new subvariant, but some preliminary research indicates that it may be more immune evasive and contagious than previous omicron variants.

Scientists still do not know if the subvariant causes more severe illness or leads to more adverse outcomes like long COVID.

Researchers are also still studying how well vaccines will hold up against XBB.1.5. They say the updated bivalent booster shot remains the best way to protect yourself. Older adults, immunocompromised people and those with certain medical conditions are still most at-risk for severe illness and death.

- abc News


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