CDC reports new strain of omicron taking over

According to the latest data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, a new version of micron has been introduced in the United States. Omicron’s subvariable XBB.1.5 has raised concerns about another potential wave of Covid cases following the busy holiday travel season.

The CDC estimated on Friday that about 40% of confirmed US Covid cases were caused by strain XBB.1.5, up from 20% a week ago. In the Northeast, about 75% of confirmed cases were reported to be XBB.1.5.

It’s not yet clear where this version of Omicron came from, but it seems to be spreading quickly here. Director of the CDC’s Division of Coronavirus and Other Respiratory Viruses, Dr. There is no indication that it causes more serious illness than any other omicron virus, Barbara Mahon told NBC News.

Mahon said that with the overall increase in hospitalizations for Kovid across the country, regions such as the Northeast, where high levels of the new variant are seen, did not experience a disproportionate increase in hospitalizations.

“We’re seeing an increase in hospitalizations overall across the country,” he said. “They don’t seem to be nicking any more in areas with more XBB.1.5.”

Seven-day average daily Covid hospitalizations reached 42,140 on Friday, up 4.2% from two weeks ago, according to an NBC News tally. The average seven-day number of daily intensive care unit admissions also rose to 5,125 per day, an increase of over 9% compared to two weeks ago.

Mahon said there’s still much unknown about the latest subvariable, including whether it’s more contagious than other types of omicron.

Other scientists worry that XB.1.5 is even better at surviving the antibodies we’ve generated from Covid vaccines and previous infections from many different types of omicrons that have spread since last December, including the original BA.1 and newer ones. BQ.1.1 and BQ.1 subvariables.

XBB.1.5 is a relative of the omicron XBB variant, which is a recombinant of the omicron subvariants BA.2.10.1 and BA.2.75.

Together, XBB and XBB.1.5 account for 44% of cases in the US, excluding other omicron versions.

According to the World Health Organization, XBB has been found in at least 70 countries, causing increases in infections in parts of Asia, including India and Singapore, in October.

Research in the lab has found that XBB can evade antibodies from previous Covid infections or vaccines; this means that exposure to the virus is more likely that someone will get sick or re-infected and show symptoms.

An infectious disease physician and epidemiologist at the University of Toronto, Dr. “It is clear that XBB has immune-escaping properties,” said Isaach Bogoch. “This has been demonstrated both in laboratory studies and clinically in cases and hospitalizations.”

Given the high levels of population immunity in the US through infection, vaccination or both, Bogoch and others hope that even if cases start to increase significantly, there will be no dramatic increase in hospitalizations or deaths as seen in previous waves. .

Antibody studies don’t tell the whole story. Evidence shows that other parts of the immune system can protect against the virus and that Covid vaccines should remain effective in preventing serious illness and death from the virus.

“We certainly might have a wave, but it’s much less likely to be this deadly or overwhelming for a healthcare system compared to waves before we had this degree of hybrid immunity,” said Bogoch.

Will Covid vaccines work against XBB.1.5?

Rick Bright, an American immunologist and former director of the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Corporation (BARDA), pointed to Singapore’s experience with XBB for encouraging signs.

There has been an increase in cases, but “we haven’t seen correspondingly large increases in hospitalizations and deaths,” said Bright.

“We think it’s because a larger population in Singapore has been vaccinated with the latest vaccines and boosters,” he said.

Unfortunately this can be an issue in the US.

People aged 65 and over are most vulnerable to any strain of the Covid virus. However, according to the most recent CDC data, only 37.5% of this age group received the latest omicron supplement.

The most important thing experts agree is to get a booster shot with new bivalent vaccines to boost your immune system against the new variants.

“We are not in 2020, but people still need to take this seriously and protect themselves,” Mahon said, adding that taking a bivalent booster is especially important for people over 65, who are in the high-risk group. quite low intake of supplements lately.

A study published last week in the New England Journal of Medicine found that Moderna and Pfizer-BioNTech’s novel Covid boosters promote antibody responses against several sub-variants of Omicron, including the XBB variant.

While the new enhancer, named divalent because it targets the omicron strains BA.4 and BA.5 as well as the original coronavirus, is not perfect, it offers additional protection to that seen in previously available original or monovalent enhancers. said Mehul Suthar, associate professor at Emory University’s Emory Vaccine Center and author of the report.

“With monovalent enhancers, your neutralizing antibodies aren’t as strong against variants, but the bivalent enhancer makes it a little bit better,” he said. “It doesn’t bother you incredibly, but it’s better, so the bivalent boosters work as they should.”

The new XBB.1.5 variant was not examined in the report, but Suthar predicts its immune-avoidance properties will be in a similar range as XBB. He hopes the two valuable boosters will also increase protection against the latest version.

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