Happy new year!
A new Omicron variant is spreading rapidly in the United States, just in time to ring in 2023, according to data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The strain, known as XBB.1.5, accounts for about 41% of confirmed COVID cases nationwide, data show.
The mutation has gained considerable momentum over the past week, according to the CDC, up from just 21% seven days ago.
First reported in mid-November, it has now overtaken BQ.1 and BQ.1.1 variants, which accounted for the majority of cases in the fall.
A close relative of the XBB strain, XBB.1.5, has been reported primarily in the northeastern United States, the health agency said.
Over 70% of COVID cases from New York to Maine are now XBB.1.5.
The enhanced variant could pose problems during the busy holiday season, experts warn.
“We project it will become the predominant variant in the northeastern region of the country and increase in all parts of the country,” said Barbara, director of the CDC’s Proposed Coronavirus and Other Respiratory Viruses Division. Dr. Mahon said. , told CBS News.
Andrew Pekos, a virologist at Johns Hopkins University, said XBB.1.5 appears to be more immune evasive because it has additional mutations that improve its binding to cells.
“Viruses need to bind tightly to cells to enter more efficiently, and that could help the virus infect people a little more efficiently,” Pecos told CNBC. rice field.
But despite its rapid spread, Mahon said there was little indication that XBB.1.5 would cause more serious illness or pose a greater risk to those infected than previous strains. .
Still, with COVID hospitalizations rising in recent weeks in the US, which just celebrated Thanksgiving and Christmas, experts are urging caution.
In the last week of December, hospital admissions increased 3.6% nationwide.
Still, the number of hospitalizations due to COVID is not expected to reach the levels of last winter.
Meanwhile, the death toll from the virus in the United States has stabilized. In the final week of 2022, 2,530 Americans have died from the virus, up from her 17,048 in the same period last year.
According to the World Health Organization, the XBB strain has been detected in at least 70 other counties.