New COVID subvariant ‘XBB.1.5′ begins circulating across the US, draws concern in Arizona

Published: Jan. 3, 2023 at 6:18 AM MST
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PHOENIX (3TV/CBS 5) - As we enter into a new year, scientists are keeping an eye on a new strain of the Omicron variant called XBB.1.5.

According to the CDC, XBB.1.5 makes up more than 40% of new cases across the country. Right now, it’s most prominent in the Northeast, making up around 75% of cases there last week. So how does XBB.1.5 compare to other Omicron subvariants? We took our questions to Dr. Shad Marvasti with the University of Arizona College of Medicine Phoenix.

“Basically, it seems to be more infectious and more easily transmissible. Some experts even said it may be nearly as easily contagious as measles, which is very contagious,” Dr. Marvasti said. The doctor said the variant appears to be more infectious because the “spike proteins on this one have been changed in a way that mutated in such a way that they can attach themselves better to our cells, and thereby, you know, come into the cells and basically perpetuate the infection.”

Nationwide, COVID cases with the XBB.1.5 variant nearly doubled in just a week. Dr. Marvasti expects it to be the dominant variant in the upcoming weeks across the nation. He says he believes that this new strain doesn’t look like it will cause people to get more sick than usual. “So far, there’s no data that shows that it is more deadly or more harmful in terms of like a higher level of severity of illness,” he added. If you got COVID over the holidays, how long are you in the clear before possibly getting it again?

“In general, what we’ve seen as a trend has been like three or four months is probably like a safe zone. But all bets are off when a completely new variant comes. So far, we haven’t seen completely new variants since Omicron, we’ve only seen subvariants,” the doctor said.