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What we know about the COVID-19 Omicron subvariant XBB.1.5

XBB.1.5 is yet another descendant of Omicron, the most contagious variant of the coronavirus, which became a global pandemic in 2000.  According to reports, it is an offshoot of XBB, which was first detected in October 2022, and seems to be a recombinant of two other Omicron sub-variants. This variant of Omicron, XBB.1.5, is said to be the most predominant.

In terms of its transmissibility,  information from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) suggests this XBB.1.5 variant has, by the end of December 22, contributed to 40.5 per cent of cases in the United States.

According to a Reuters report published on January 5, 2023, The World Health Organization’s senior epidemiologist, Maria Van Kerkhove, has said that the XBB.1.5  variant is “the most transmissible Omicron sub-variant that has been detected so far. It spreads rapidly because of the mutations it contains, allowing it to adhere to cells and replicate easily.”

She, according to this report, further indicated that the concern raised by this new variant is its transmissibility. She added during the press conference held in Geneva, “The reason for this is the mutations within this subvariant of Omicron, which allows this virus to adhere to the cell and replicate easily.”

Therefore, it is no surprise that the United States, where many cases have been identified, is recording such high figures, with an estimated 44.1% of cases recorded as of December 31, 2022.

COVID-19 XBB 1.5 variant and its symptoms

Purnea University has reported that symptoms of the new variant of Covid-19 XBB 1.5 are mild, with patients in China reporting coughs, changes in sense of smell, hearing loss, pain in the chest, and shaking.

What is the WHO doing about it?

Van Kerkhove has said that the WHO will likely publish more information on the matter in the coming days.

Countries most likely to be affected

The variant has been identified in the US, Europe, China, and India, according to timesofindia. This notwithstanding, there is a likelihood of an increase in numbers because no stringent measures have been implemented yet. The WHO has, however, cautioned that masks should be worn on long-haul flights as the variant continues to spread.

Have there been any reported cases in Ghana?

DUBAWA spoke to a Diseases Control Officer in Sissala East, Tumu, Mr Saani Nyausun, who disclosed that “indeed, the new variant XBB.1.5 is another form of Covid-19 which was not a different virus. It has no cure, just like the that started the pandemic and viral infections are very difficult to cure since they portray themselves like normal body cells.”

When asked if this new variant has been reported in Ghana, he said, “we have not heard or read anything about its emergence in Ghana; so far, it’s only in South Africa that cases of infection have been recorded in Africa.” 

DUBAWA will continue to update this report as new information arises.

This report was produced under the DUBAWA Non-urban Journalists Mentorship project aimed at promoting a culture of truth and verification in non-urban newsrooms in Ghana with support from the US Embassy in Ghana.

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