Recent data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has shown that the XBB.1.5 subvariant of the omicron strain of COVID-19 is now the dominant variant in the United States, making up roughly 40% of all COVID cases. This subvariant is most prevalent in the Northeastern United States, accounting for 75% of cases in the region. The World Health Organization has reported that XBB was first detected in India in August and has since spread quickly throughout Southeast Asia.
XBB.1.5 is believed to have a mutation which allows it to bind to cells more easily, increasing its chance of infecting individuals. Although it is not believed to be more severe than other COVID variants, it is more immune-evasive and may not respond as well to antibody treatments. FDA warnings have also suggested that some at-home saliva testing kits may have reduced sensitivity to this variant.
To protect against the spread of XBB.1.5, health officials continue to recommend protective measures such as mask-wearing, vaccination and staying home if feeling unwell, regardless of a negative COVID test. As Americans are already facing other respiratory illnesses, it is important to take extra precautions against the further spread of XBB.1.5.