Omicron XBB.1.5 Driving New Covid-19 Surge

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Referring a newly released data from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), “XBB.1.5 has more than doubled its share of the Covid-19 pie each week for the last four, rising from about 4% to 41% of new infections over the month of December. In the Northeast, the CDC estimates, XBB.1.5 is causing 75% of new cases,” CNN writes.

Pavitra Roychoudhury, director of Covid-19 sequencing at the University of Washington School of Medicine’s virology lab, told CNN “For a few months now, we haven’t seen a variant that’s taken off at that speed”.

According to Trevor Bedford, a professor of computational biology at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Center in Seattle, its spreading speed is similar to other Omicron subvariant BA.5. He told CNN “I expect it to drive increased circulation in the coming weeks. That increase may not be reflected in case numbers, he pointed out, since more people are testing at home, and their cases may not be counted unless they seek medical care and get a lab test to confirm their results. So I’d look to hospitalizations in the vulnerable age groups [such as seniors] as better indicator of wave.”

According health experts, the new XBB.1.5 subvariants is the recombination mutant comprising of BA.2, CNN writes.

Dr. David Ho, professor of microbiology and immunology at Columbia University, told CNN “He found that XBB.1 was the slipperiest of them all. It was 63 times less likely to be neutralized by antibodies in the blood of infected and vaccinated people than BA.2 and 49 times less likely to be neutralized compared with BA.4 and BA.5.”

Dr. Michael Osterholm, who directs the University of Minnesota’s Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy, told CNN “Looking at the Northeast, where XBB.1.5 is thought to be causing the majority of infections”. He added “They still provide a level of immunity that may not prevent you from getting infected but may have a significant impact on whether or not you become seriously ill and die. I mean, right now, the most recent data we have shows that for those who have the bivalent vaccine, they have a three-fold lower risk of dying than those who don’t.”

“It doesn’t appear to be causing any more severe illness, and so I think that it’s a very different situation circulating today than had it been a year ago. There’s so much more immunity in the population that I don’t think that it’s going to take off,” Dr. Osterholm told CNN.