New Year and New Variant of COVID is in the block. According to the World Health Organization, the XBB.1.5, a descendant of the Omicron XBB subvariant, has started to increase in some parts of Europe (WHO). The CDC has recently estimated that as of Friday (January 14), XBB.1.5 was responsible for at least 43% of all COVID-19 cases across the US, up from 30% in the first week of January.
#COVID19 transmission is on the rise in your community again? Here is how you can assess and reduce your risk of infection ⬇️Get vaccinatedWear a maskAvoid crowdsOpen windows
Clean your hands pic.twitter.com/7cPSjasl9a
— World Health Organization (WHO) (@WHO) January 13, 2023
What is XBB.1.5, the latest COVID sub-variant?
The COVID-19 coronavirus Omicron strain, which is currently the most contagious variant of concern (VOC), contains a subvariant known as XBB.1.5. A record number of infections were caused by Omicron’s early-year spread worldwide. Unofficially known as Kraken, XBB.1.5 is a sublineage of XBB made up of two strains of the subvariant BA.2 and belongs to the XBB family. In the US, it was first discovered in October 2022. At least 38 nations have seen the spread of XBB.1.5, including Canada, Australia, Kuwait, Germany, and France.
The subvariant differs from its very similar predecessor XBB.1 only because of an additional mutation to its spike protein, claims Grace Roberts, a virologist at the University of Leeds in Britain. Notably, this extra spike protein is what opens the door for the virus to enter the cells of the body.
Is XBB.1.5 more infectious?
The “most transmissible subvariant detected yet” is XBB.1.5, according to Maria Van Kerkhove, WHO’s the technical lead on COVID-19, who made this statement on January 4. “The reasons for this are the mutations that are within this subvariant of Omicron allowing this virus to adhere to the cell and replicate easily,” she continued.
Experts claim that Kraken has an advantage over XBB due to the F486p mutation, which enables it to more effectively attach to the ACE2 receptor in cells, which is how COVID-19 spreads in humans.
The emerging XBB.1.5 variant, according to Maria Van Kerkhove, the WHO technical lead on Covid, is the most contagious form of the illness and clearly has a “growth advantage” over other SARS-CoV-2 strains, the virus that causes Covid. The XBB.1.5 spike protein mutation along with its already highly transmissible ancestor, the XBB variant, is currently thought to be the most probable cause of the disease’s transmissibility, according to the ECDC.
Can XBB.1.5 lead to severity?
According to the WHO, there is currently no solid proof that Kraken will cause more severe disease than its forerunners. The UN agency reported that XBB.1.5 did not “carry any mutation known to be associated with a potential change in severity” in an internal risk assessment published on January 11. However, it claimed that assessments of severity were ongoing.
The new subvariant presents “no cause to panic,” according to a report by AFP, and the University of Leeds virologist does not think that “any drastic action at present” is necessary. However, it is crucial for the nations to keep an eye on the development and spread of XBB.1.5.
What are the symptoms of the XBB.1.5 variant?
“Symptoms with XBB 1.5 appear to be similar to the earlier Omicron variants,” said Andrea Garcia, vice president of science, medicine, and public health for the American Medical Association (AMA), in a recent interview. “These symptoms can range from cold symptoms to shortness of breath and low oxygen levels that require emergency medical attention.” stated further.
She also noted that the signs and symptoms of Covid, which include people losing their sense of taste and smell, appear different than what was observed earlier in the pandemic due to the emergence and spread of new variants. While it still occurs occasionally, according to the AMA VP, it is now uncommon with the Omicron variant.
“The experts generally believe that the symptoms of Covid have become less severe over time. That could be because they tend to remain in the upper respiratory tract and don’t affect the lungs as much as earlier variants,” said Garcia.
She continued by saying that immunity from vaccinations or previous infections is also to blame for people in the US reporting milder symptoms like a cough, congestion, and headache. However, because they can be mistaken for the flu or a cold, the AMA VP advises getting tested for covid if you experience any of the symptoms listed below:
- Runny nose
- Sore throat
- Headache, cold
- Joints pain
- Upper back pain
- Pain in the neck
Also, it is better and wise to follow the precautionary methods like:
- To be most protected from this new variation put on a mask.
- Keep your distance from people because it is safer to avoid crowded places.
- To prevent any kind of infection, wash your hands frequently or sanitize them.
- For better ventilation during the day, keep your windows open.
Omicron poses a threat to public health even though it is less severe and requires fewer hospitalizations than earlier variants like alpha or delta, and vaccination is an essential defense against it. Therefore, abide by all safety precautions to protect yourself and your family.