The new XBB variant (also known as BA.2.10) of COVID-19 has been spreading panic in countries like Singapore, the United States, Australia, Denmark, Bangladesh, Japan, and India. This new strain poses a cause of concern as the cases caused by the Omicron BA.5 strain are finally receding in the US. It has become the major variant in Singapore with more than half of the total COVID cases reported to be of the XBB variant.
XBB Variant: The New Covid-19 Strain How Harmful Is It?
This new variant is one among the many mutated variations of the Novel Corona Virus and the XBB variant is by far the most evolved among the others.
This variant has been discovered around different parts of the world since August 2022 and is believed to be highly transmissible and immune-evasive.
This is because the XBB variant combines multiple strains of the Omicron variant and other COVID-19 variants with major mutations in the spike protein.
The threat of the new XBB variant came soon after President Joe Biden claimed last month that the Covid pandemic in the US is over.
As per recent studies conducted by scientists around the world, the XBB variant seems to be a highly contagious variant of COVID-19 and immune to vaccinations but doesn’t seem like a dangerous variant that causes a spike in mortality rates.
Associate Professor Alex Cook, vice-dean of research at the Saw Swee Hock School of Public Health quoted, “So far, it doesn’t seem to be leading to worse outcomes. Hospitalization numbers are slowly going up, as we would expect with more cases, but so far, the growth in severe outcomes seems slower than the growth in cases”.
Dr. Leong Hoe Nam, an infectious disease specialist at Mount Elizabeth Novena Hospital in Singapore reports that even though the XBB strain is mostly immune to the vaccines, being vaccinated can still prevent the onset of severe illness which may lead to COVID-related complications or death.
He also stated that people who haven’t been vaccinated are at a greater risk of new variant infections. According to the Singapore government health officials, the XBB variant seems to have a 30% lower risk of hospitalization when compared to the Omicron BA.5 variant cases.
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The Singapore government has also warned online portals and other news sources to be more sensitive and factual while reporting cases on the new variant as a lot of false news was reported on the status of the infections which can lead to unwanted panic among the public.
The new “bivalent” booster shots made by Moderna and Pfizer seem to be effective in resisting the new variant but this can only be proved in the coming months after more evidence of its effectiveness is established in a larger population.
The natural antibodies that we acquire after a COVID infection also seem to be effective in preventing any further infections but only up to a few months. The ideal way, as it seems now, is to go for booster shots as the virus is continuously evolving at a faster rate.
According to the Singapore Ministry of Health, the cases of XBB infections are to peak by mid-November throughout Singapore.
Health departments across the world have advised citizens to maintain the necessary COVID safety protocols like wearing masks and sanitizing hands regularly as the advent of the new strain can create an unprecedented increase in the number of COVID infections worldwide because of its highly contagious character.
The virality of the XBB strain hasn’t been studied fully yet and this is a cause of concern as we don’t fully understand the nature and long-term effects that the new strain could have on the world population.
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