New omicron subvariant, most contagious yet, spreading rapidly in New York, as cases rise
The most contagious variant of COVID-19 is still spreading rapidly in the US, especially in the Northeast, where it is already responsible for 70% of new infections, according to the World Health Organization’s technical lead for COVID-19, Dr. Maria Van Kerkhove.
Its high transmissibility rate of the new omicron subvariant XBB.1.5 is due to mutations that allow this virus to attach to the cell and replicate easily, Van Kerkhove said during a WHO press conference yesterday.
“So far, we still don’t have any data on the severity or the clinical picture,” Van Kerkhove said. “But we also don’t have an indication that severity has changed with XBB.1.5,” she said.
The WHO is monitoring “very closely” through studies and in “real-world data, when we look at hospitalization rates around the world among people who are infected with this subvariant,” Van Kerkhove said. WHO is doing a risk assessment for XBB.1.5 and expects to publish it in the next couple of days, she said.
“We are concerned about its growing advantage,” Van Kerkove said.
Health officials are particularly concerned about its spread in the Northeast, Van Kerkove said, “where XBB.1.5 has rapidly replaced other circulating variants.” Van Kerkove said increased hospitalizations have been reported in the northeast, where XXB.1.5 is now the dominant subvariant in circulation.
MORE COVERAGE: Local COVID-19 hospitalization charts
XBB.1.5 was first detected in New York the week before Thanksgiving, when it was responsible for 1.4% of new laboratory-confirmed cases in New York, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Six weeks later, for the week ending Dec. 31, XBB.1.5 accounted for 72.2% of new infections in the state, CDC data show.
The number of cases in New York has increased since Thanksgiving.
MORE COVERAGE: Daily cases of COVID-19
Suffolk County continues to lead the state as the county, outside of New York City, with the highest number of new COVID-19 infections. Suffolk’s community level of COVID-19 is classified by the CDC as high, with a case rate of 266.22 per 100,000 residents.
The CDC recommends that people in Suffolk wear masks in public and on public transportation. People should stay up-to-date on vaccinations, get tested if they have symptoms, and those at high risk for serious illness (people over age 60, people with pre-existing conditions and immunodeficiency) should consider taking precautions addition, the CDC says.
The new subvariant has been detected in 29 countries so far, she said, noting that surveillance and sequencing has been declining worldwide, so the new subvariant is likely present in more countries than that. said Van Kerkov.
“Vaccination remains absolutely critical for preventing serious illness and death, no matter where you live,” Van Kerkove said. “If you are recommended to take a further dose, a booster dose, especially if you are an older age – I’m talking to my friends and family who live in the northeastern US and all over the world – please take that next dose,” she said.
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