This past December, there was a notable increase in the cases of the new COVID-19 Omicron variant, XBB.1.5. Of all the different variants, this one is believed to be the most transmissible yet.
Here’s what we know about this new variant of COVID-19.
It’s More Transmissible
Experts agree that XBB.1.5 has a solid affinity for ACE2. This transmembrane protein and receptor allow the virus to evade immunity by binding more easily. As a result, it boosts its transmissibility.
XBB.1.5 Is Less Virulent
While it’s been proven that XBB.1.5 is more transmissible, studies show that it’s not more virulent or deadly than the previous variants. This means the vaccines designed to fight previous variants are still effective.
Symptoms of XBB.1.5
The symptoms of XBB.1.5 are very similar to the previous virus variants. Due to boosters, it’s even possible to experience only mild symptoms. People who’ve tested positive for this variant describe it as more like a cold, without the high fever or feeling very sick.
How to Prevent XBB.1.5
With a 40% increase in cases in the U.S. as of December, people must take precautions. These may include:
- Testing before big gatherings or being near a vulnerable person
- Wearing a high-quality mask in crowded-indoor places
- Keeping indoor places well-ventilated
- Taking a test immediately if you feel symptoms related to XBB.1.5
Are There Any Treatments Available?
As the virus keeps mutating, it’s nearly impossible for experts to develop a successful treatment. The virus has found a way to evolve into new subvariants that elude clinical monoclonal antibodies used in the production of vaccines.
Despite the spike in the number of XBB.1.5 cases, there’s no evidence to support the theory that it’s more virulent than previous variants. However, experts suggest that whoever had the infection before July or got vaccinated before the bivalent update in September probably has little protection against XBB.1.5. Prevention is the key to avoiding getting the virus, especially for the most vulnerable.