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XBB.1.5 COVID variant: What we know about symptoms, severe cases – Axios

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios
The XBB.1.5 COVID-19 subvariant — a new version of the Omicron variant — is sweeping through the United States right now amid a chaotic travel season and the early days of winter.
Why it matters: Cases tied to the new variant nearly doubled over the last week, according to estimates from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. And that's stoked fears that more cases could be on the way nationwide.
The XBB.1.5 strain is responsible for 40.5% of confirmed U.S. cases for the week ending on Dec. 31, the CDC estimates show. That’s up about 20% from the week ending on Dec. 24.
What they’re saying: "We're projecting that it's going to be the dominant variant in the Northeast region of the country and that it's going to increase in all regions of the country," Dr. Barbara Mahon, director of the CDC's proposed Coronavirus and Other Respiratory Viruses Division, told CBS News.
Zoom out: Experts have become increasingly concerned about the XBB.1.5 and XBB variants — recombinants of the BA.2 subvariant — in recent weeks after it popped up in multiple Asian countries, per Reuters. And it's spreading as China is seeing a massive surge of cases right now.
XBB.1.5 is different than the XBB variant because it can attach itself better to cells, CNBC reports.
It’s unclear where this version of the Omicron variant came from, but it is spreading quickly.
There do not appear to be any additional COVID-19 symptoms tied to XBB.1.5 that are different than normal symptoms.
Yes, but: Scientists said the XBB.1.5 variant has mutations that could allow the virus to evade COVID-19 vaccine boosters and cause more breakthrough infections, CNBC reports.
What's next: "I think it is a really good time for people to do the things that we have been saying for quite a while are the best ways to protect themselves," Mahon told CBS.
More from Axios:
U.S. to require negative COVID-19 test for air travelers from China
Most Americans don't have peak protection against COVID
China sees more deaths as COVID "tsunami" takes hold

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