As US Covid Cases Rise, WHO Questions Severity of XBB.1.5

According to estimates from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the Omicron subvariant XBB.1.5 is still gaining ground within the United States, accounting for at least 43% of sequenced cases for the week ending Jan. 14.

According to the CDC’s estimates, that is up from 30.4% the week before, and given that the XBB.1.5 is representing more and more cases as real-world data emerges, experts are beginning to question the latest variant’s severity.

The rapid risk assessment made by the World Health Organization (WHO) earlier this week pointed out that, compared to previous variants. the omicron XBB.1.5 variant doesn’t have any mutations that make people sicker.

However, the WHO added that the full severity of the variant and its symptoms can’t be fully determined since it doesn’t have any real-world data on how the variant- calling it one of the most antibody-resistant variants so far- is actually affecting people.

Earlier this week, the head of the White House COVID Task Force, Dr. Ashish Jha, said that if a person’s last vaccine was before the recent bivalent update in September and if they had a COVID-19 infection before July 2022, their protection against an XBB.1.5. infection is not that great.

Announcing they’ll soon have more data on how well vaccines neutralize XBB.1.5, Jha said in his tweeted statement that right now, those people likely have very little protection against infection.

Nicknamed the “Kraken” variant, the Omicron subvariant XBB.1.5 now accounts for close to 73% of cases sequenced in New York, as the New York City health officials said the subvariant cited by NBC New York.

According to Texas health officials, XBB.1.5 COVID variant is likely accounting for Houston’s rise in COVID-19 cases, too, while Hawaii News Now cited Hawaii’s Department of Health as saying that the subvariant was recently discovered in wastewater.

The CDC estimates made in late December show that the majority of US adults are without the maximum level of vaccine protection against the virus, putting the emphasis on most of America’s seniors among which only 36% have received the updated booster shot that became available in September.

On top of that, just 16% of the population 18 and older have received the updated booster shot.

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