CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. — A new version of the omicron variant called XBB.1.5 is sweeping through the United States, especially the Northeast.
According to the CDC, the variant represented only 21.7% of U.S. cases two weeks ago. In the Northeast, the variant only made up 6% of total cases at the start of December.
“It was previously seen in Singapore and India in the fall. Now it’s becoming the dominant variant. Across the U.S., it's made up about 40% of cases by December 31, 2022, but more so in the Northeast," said Dr. Raghav Tirupathi, an infectious disease physician at Wellspan Chambersburg.
Why is this new variant spreading so rapidly?
“What is different here is that it has a greater degree of immune evasion, which means it can escape immunity, either because of prior infection or vaccines," said Dr. Tirupathi.
Health experts predict there’s going to be a surge of cases in the coming weeks, causing hospitals to once again become overwhelmed.
“The total number of cases and the huge burden on the health care system could overwhelm it," said Dr. Tirupathi.
However, health experts say the severity of the infection is not worse than previous variants.
“It could be more upper respiratory symptoms, headaches, congestion, sore throat, postnasal drip," said Dr. Tirupathi.
According to the CDC, the new variant makes up most cases in the Northeast from New York through Maine.