(CNN Spanish) — Scientists warn that the XBB.1.5 variant of the coronavirus could be the most contagious since Omicron, causing rapid waves of infections, but say that, so far, there is no indication that it causes more severe disease Is.
During the month of December, the percentage of new COVID-19 infections in the United States attributed to XBB.1.5 increased from an estimated 4% to 41%.
Experts have already issued some warnings to heed. Dr. Ashish Jha, the White House response coordinator for COVID-19, said that XBB.1.5 is probably the most capable of breaching our immune defenses and may be the most infectious. Maria Van Kerkhove, epidemiologist and WHO technical leader on Covid-19, went a little further and assured that the variant—which was first detected in the United States and has spread to at least 29 countries—”Omicron’s The most transitive way is Date”.
The two scientists have made a point: It is not yet clear whether it causes more severe disease. So far there is no indication that this is the case, so most experts have said that while they do not expect XBB.1.5 to cause more disease, they do not expect those infections to become more severe.
What do we know about symptoms
“From what is known so far, the symptoms are no different from Omicron,” public health expert Dr. Elmar Huerta told CNN en Español. These include sore throat, cough and fatigue – and less loss of smell and taste compared to the effects of other previous variants such as alpha, beta, gamma and delta.
However, “it takes some time for the symptoms to consolidate,” he added. This has to do with how the information is studied: Symptoms are tabulated and entered into databases, and the analysis of these data is not necessarily fast, Huerta explained.
Therefore, for the time being “there is not yet a scientific publication or something that confirms the symptoms”. An update is expected from WHO soon.
How to take care of yourself amid the rise of the XBB.1.5 variant
Self-care tools haven’t changed.
Jha pointed out that effective means of preventing severe COVID-19 infection include rapid testing, use of high-quality masks, indoor air ventilation and filtration, oral antiviral tablets, and updated vaccinations.
How effective the available vaccines are is another important point.
Dr. David Ho, Professor of Microbiology and Immunology at Columbia University, recently reported spikes of the XBB and XBB.1 variants in his laboratory as well as the BQ. People who were infected, those who were vaccinated with the original and new bivalent vaccines, and those who were both infected and vaccinated. His team also tested 23 monoclonal antibody treatments against these new subtypes.
He found that XBB.1 was the most elusive. It was 63 times less likely to be neutralized by antibodies in the blood of infected and vaccinated people than BA.2, and 49 times less likely to be neutralized than BA.4 and BA.5.
In terms of immune evasion, Ho says, these variants have strayed from the antibodies we’ve made to use against them, as the original Omicron variant strayed from the Covid-19 variant that emerged about a year ago .
Ho explained that the antibody evasion of XBB.1.5 is similar to that of XBB.1, meaning it has the ability to evade protection from previous vaccines and infections. It is also resistant to all current antibody treatments, including Ivushield.
With reporting from CNN’s Brenda Goodman.