Omicron sub-variant XBB.1.5 accounts for nearly half of US Covid-19 cases: CDC

XBB.1.5 is currently the most transmissible variant. PHOTO: EPA-EFE

WASHINGTON - The fast-spreading Omicron XBB.1.5 is estimated to make up nearly half of US Covid-19 cases, data from the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) showed on Friday, putting it on track to become the dominant sub-variant in the country.

It is estimated to account for 49.1 per cent of Covid-19 cases in the country in the week ended Jan 21, a jump from 37.2 per cent last week.

The sub-variant is an offshoot of XBB, a combination of two other Omicron sub-variants, that has been rapidly gaining ground in United States, particularly in the northeast.

“XBB.1.5 is an additional mutation on top of the original XBB that people think enabled it to better bind to our human cells and more easily cause an infection,” said Mr Daniel Rhoads, section head of microbiology at the Cleveland Clinic.

“So I expect that it will continue to grow in the proportion of variants that are causing Covid-19 and become predominant in the United States.”

The World Health Organisation’s director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said earlier in January that XBB.1.5 has been on the rise globally and identified in over 25 countries.

Weekly Covid-19 infections are down after ticking slightly higher in December and early January, according to CDC data.

It is still unclear if XBB.1.5 can cause its own wave of global infections, but epidemiologists say the current booster shots will offer some protection against severe symptoms, hospitalisation and death.

XBB.1.5. has overtaken the previously dominant Omicron subvariant BQ.1.1 and BQ.1, which were offshoots of BA.5.

The two strains together accounted for 40.2 per cent of cases in the US in the week ended Jan 21, compared with 48.8 per cent a week ago, the CDC said. REUTERS

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