The XBB.1.5 omicron subvariant is raising concerns of a potential surge in COVID-19 cases as it sweeps across the Northeast.
Officials have warned in recent weeks that the strain is highly transmissible, can more easily evade the immunity offered by vaccines or prior infections than past variants and is likely to drive cases up around the country.
Most transmissible: XBB.1.5 is “the most transmissible subvariant that has been detected yet” of the already highly contagious omicron strain, Maria Van Kerkhove, technical lead of the World Health Organization’s (WHO) COVID-19 response, said in a recent briefing.
Cases likely to rise: Food and Drug Administration Commissioner Robert Califf said when speaking about XBB.1.5 this week that he expected a further increase in cases.
Treatments should still work: Ashish Jha, the White House’s COVID-19 response coordinator, said the updated bivalent COVID-19 booster is still the “best protection” against infection and severe illness
Oral antivirals like Paxlovid and molnupiravir are also still expected to be effective against XBB.1.5, as they don’t function by boosting antibodies — which the strain appears better able to evade — but by hindering the virus’s ability to replicate itself.
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