Infectious Disease Experts are Advising Precaution as the New COVID XBB Subvariant Spreads
Doctors are urging the public to wear masks in crowds and to get vaccinated as the XBB subvariant now accounts for half of all COVID cases in New England. Just two weeks ago, the XBB variant accounted for only 11% of cases in the region.
According to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), XBB.1.5 accounted for 40.5 percent of cases in the county by the end of December. That’s an increase of 21.7% from the week prior.
“Obviously, XBB.1.5 is very, very contagious, because it seems to be outcompeting some of the other variants,” says William Schaffner, MD at the Vanderbilt University School of Medicine in Nashville, Tennessee.
Dr. Shira Doron of Tufts Medical Center says the sudden increase in XBB is striking. "I wasn't expecting it because it had been smoldering on the chart for a while."
The symptoms of the newest omicron subvariants are quite akin to those of the prior versions of omicron, according to NBC News.
Common indicators of the omicron subvariants include:
- Sore throat
- Hoarse voice
- Runny nose
- Nasal congestion
- Muscle aches
Unlike prior variants like Delta that affected the lungs, omicron and its subvariants tend to cause more upper respiratory symptoms which can include congestion, sore throat and changes in taste and smell.
Health experts and doctors agree that new COVID XBB subvariant precautions and measures need to be taken in order to control the spread.
Schaffner urges everybody to get their COVID-19 vaccines up to date, including the new bivalent booster shots. “They may not protect against mild infections but they certainly protect against severe disease,” said Schaffner.
"If you're traveling in crowded areas or on airplanes, it's a good time to be wearing a mask," said Dr. Richard Ellison, an infectious disease expert at UMass Memorial.
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