Coronavirus

Omicron subvariant XBB.1.5 accounts for 43 percent of COVID-19 cases in US

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The fast-spreading omicron subvariant XBB.1.5 is estimated to account for 43 percent of the COVID-19 cases in the United States for the week ended January 14, data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention showed on Friday.

The subvariant accounted for about 30 percent of cases in the first week of January, higher than the 27.6 percent the CDC estimated last week.

XBB.1.5 is a descendant of the omicron XBB subvariant — which is itself a cross between two earlier strains: BA.2.75 and BA.2.10.1.

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The original XBB variant has already caused waves of infection in countries including Singapore and India since the World Health Organization first raised concern about it last October.

The WHO’s senior epidemiologist Maria Van Kerkhove said XBB.1.5 is the most transmissible omicron subvariant that has been detected so far. It spreads rapidly because of the mutations it contains, allowing it to adhere to cells and replicate easily.

The WHO said it does not have any data on severity yet, nor does it have a clinical picture on its impact. It said that it saw no indication that its severity had changed but that increased transmissibility is always a concern.

Virologists agree that the emergence of the new subvariant does not mean there is a new crisis in the pandemic. New variants are to be expected as the virus continues to spread.

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