XBB COVID Variant Under Watch Amid Flu Season: Should You Be Worried?
Can the XBB variant lead to another COVID wave? FIT answers your FAQs.
The graphs are being closely watched, and all eyes are on new, emerging COVID variants that could lead to a pandemic resurgence. The latest to come under the radar of researchers is the XBB variant.
Is XBB a new COVID variant?
No, it's not a new variant of COVID. Rather, it is a recombinant of two Omicron subvariants, BA.2.10.1 and BA.2.75.
XBB was first detected in Singapore, but since then has spread to over 35 countries.
According to the WHO, since it is a sub-lineage of Omicron, it will be considered a variant of concern.
Is it more transmissible?
Early data points to XBB being more transmissible than previous sub-lineages of Omicron, as well as other COVID variants.
Moreover, according to the WHO, early evidence points to a higher risk of reinfections with XBB, as compared to other circulating Omicron sub-lineages.
Has it been detected in India?
Yes, the XBB subvariant has been detected in 9 states on India so far - Delhi, Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu, West Bengal, Odisha, Puducherry (16), Karnataka, Gujarat, and Rajasthan, reported newswire service, IANS.
Given that it has been identified as a highly transmissible variant, XBB is likely to spread to other states soon too.
According to the Indian SARS-CoV-2 Genomics Consortium (INSACOG), nearly 50 percent of the samples sequenced in India last week were of this variant.
Can it evade vaccine protection?
Considering it's a subvariant of Omicron a COVID variant known to evade protection from vaccines and prior infection, XBB too has been observed to escape immunity.
Does it cause more severe illness?
Speaking to FIT for a previous article, virologist Dr Gagandeep Kang explained that more transmissible variants and subvariants are likely to emerge, but the thing to watch is whether it's leading to a rise in severe illnesses and deaths.
In a statement released on 2 November, INSACOG said that cases of XBB detected in India have been mild, and that no increase in severity has been noted yet.
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