Health officials in New York City are warning citizens that the infectious omicron subvariant XBB.1.5 may infect those who have previously been vaccinated or infected with COVID-19.
“Omicron subvariant XBB.1.5 now accounts for 73% of all sequenced COVID-19 cases in NYC,” the NYC Department of Health and Mental Hygiene tweeted on Friday. “XBB.1.5 is the most transmissible form of COVID-19 that we know of to date and may be more likely to infect people who have been vaccinated or already had COVID-19.”
The department went on to say that getting vaccinated against the virus, including having an updated booster dose, is still the best way to avoid hospitalization and death, even from new varieties.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, XBB.1.5 is responsible for 43% of infections in the United States. The subvariant accounted for around 30% of cases in the first week of January. XBB.1.5, an XBB branch, was found in October.
Based on genetic traits and early growth rate estimates, the World Health Organization warned earlier this week that it might lead to a rise in the number of cases. Scientists have warned that the virus will almost certainly evolve further.
“Our concern is how transmissible it is,” Maria Van Kerkhove, the WHO’s technical lead on COVID-19, said. “The more this virus circulates, the more chances it will have to change,” she noted.
Van Kerkhove stated that while there is no data that XBB.1.5 causes more severe disease, the FDA is working on a new risk assessment of the variation and hopes to issue it soon.