It can be difficult to stay current with the coronavirus, especially with the highly mutated and fast-moving omicron variant. In the latest COVID-19 news, a new omicron subvariant, XBB.1.5, has become the predominant strain responsible for more than 50% of COVID-19 infections in the United States. In the week of December 24th, 2022, XBB accounted for 18.3% of the COVID-19 cases in the United States. That number increased from 11.2% in the previous week, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
By the very end of 2022, XBB accounted for over 40.5% of cases in the country. In the northeastern United States, three out of four cases are currently XBB.1.5. The interesting thing is that XBB subvariants were barely on the radar three to four months ago. At that time, the CDC stated that omicron subvariant BA.5 made up 80% of infections. After that, BQ.1 and BQ.1.1 took over. Now, BA.5 only accounts for 3.7% of cases. It’s a wildly unpredictable landscape, with XBB.1.5 multiplying at record speed.
XBB.1.5 Appears To Be More Contagious Than Other Subvariants
XBB.1.5 is very, very contagious, according to the CDC. Infectious disease experts say that it is outcompeting other variants. This subvariant has already driven outbreaks in parts of Asia, including Singapore. The increased numbers in the northeastern United States, as we previously mentioned, may be an indicator of what will come in the rest of the country. As of December 30th, 2022, the New York Times COVID Tracker noted that New York and New Jersey saw some of the country’s highest per-capita case rates.
Do Rising Hospitalizations In New York Foreshadow An Increase In COVID-19 Cases Across The U.S.?
Recent New York health figures suggest a steady rise in COVID-19 hospitalizations. A few southern states, including South Carolina and Kentucky, also experienced worsening conditions. Experts don’t know if XBB.1.5 is specifically driving hospitalizations, but the data doesn’t look favorable. It is a contributing factor at the very least, but more information is needed.
When a new variant moves to a different geographic area, the risk of a mini outbreak in that area is high. That said, experts do not see the XBB subvariant driving the same massive surges as the original omicron variant did at the end of 2021. That’s great news!
Do Current COVID-19 Vaccines Protect Against XBB.1.5?
As stated when the original vaccine rolled out, they won’t keep you 100% protected from COVID-19 infection. As of now, experts believe that current vaccines will offer substantial protection against a mild or moderate infection developing into severe illness. Infectious disease experts say, from a vaccine point of view, that vaccinated individuals are still okay in that sense. XBB.1.5 is not yet a variant of concern, but it is of great interest because of the way it’s spreading. Current CDC data shows that only 15% of Americans are up to date on the most recent COVID-19 booster shot.
Vaccination is obviously optional and you need to do what’s right for you. Don’t simply rely on vaccinations, though. Do your part to stay healthy by eating the right foods and getting a sufficient amount of weekly exercise. Various modalities can also help improve immune function and respiratory health, so explore those options in your efforts to stay safe and healthy.