XBB subvariant driving spike in new COVID-19 cases

0
20
Advertisment


A quick-moving, evasive subvariant is fueling a rising number of COVID-19 infections across New York and the U.S., recent statistics show, but scientists don’t believe it will lead to a surge in serious illness.

The subvariant, XBB 1.5, can cause infections in people who are vaccinated or recently had COVID-19, scientists have said.

They also predict a post-New Year’s bump in cases for the coming weeks.

XBB 1.5 is a subvariant of the omicron variant of the SARS-CoV-2 virus, which causes COVID-19.

In the last two weeks of December, XBB 1.5 jumped from 21.7% of new infections across the U.S. to 40.5%, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 

Dec. 2 data from the New York State Health Department showed only about 2% of new cases were attributed to XBB 1.5. By Dec. 17, the most recent data available on the agency’s website, the subvariant accounted for 24.4% of infections statewide.

It has surpassed BQ. 1 and is a close second to BQ. 1.1, subvariants that were the majority of new COVID-19 cases in New York just a few weeks ago.

“There’s no question that XBB is growing quickly and mostly likely will be dominant in the metropolitan area in the near future,” said Dr. Bruce Farber, chief of public health and epidemiology at Northwell Health. “And there continues to be an evolution, happening a little faster than many of us had predicted.”

Farber said while the subvariant does not appear to cause a more virulent form of COVID-19 illness, hospitalizations of people with the disease have been up since Thanksgiving.

“The number of people in the intensive care units and deaths from COVID-19 directly have been stable,” he said. “So most of the people with COVID-19 in the hospital have other medical problems and underlying medical problems can make COVID-19 more of a concern … the good news is most people who have COVID-19 now are not terribly ill.”

According to the CDC, more than 400,000 new cases of COVID-19 were recorded nationwide for the week ending last Wednesday. More than 2.1 million new cases were reported for the week ending Dec. 29, 2021. As of Sunday, New York’s 7-day average percentage of positive tests was more than 8%. Long Island was at more than 9%.

The actual current number of infections across the state and nation are likely higher since so many people are testing for COVID-19 at home and there are no reporting requirements.

In recent months, researchers have been trying to assess the impact of newer subvariants BQ and XBB, especially because both appear to evade immunity by vaccine and prior infection.

A recent study in the journal Cell by Columbia University researchers said the subvariants could cause a “surge in breakthrough infections as well as re-infections.” But they emphasized the COVID-19 vaccinations are still effective at preventing hospitalization and severe disease, as well as long-term effects.

“The virus will continue to evolve and generate more variants in perpetuity — that’s what viruses do,” said Dr. Amesh A. Adalja, an infectious disease expert and senior scholar at Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security in Baltimore.

“It is important to recognize that with SARS-CoV-2 there will always be evolution towards more transmissible immune evasive variants (just like there is for other coronaviruses which cause 25% of common colds),” he said in an email to Newsday. “However, due to immunity from vaccines, boosters, infections and combinations of these protection against severe disease remains intact, especially when high risk individuals stay up-to-date with boosters.”

Dr. Aaron Glatt, chairman of medicine and chief of infectious diseases at Mount Sinai South Nassau Hospital in Oceanside, said people should take a “nuanced approach” when considering how to protect themselves and loved ones against COVID-19 infections.

“If you are at higher risk, you should be much more cautious than if you are at lower risk,” he said. “And everybody has to understand that you’re willing to take the risk.”

For example, Farber said, a younger, healthy person who wants to attend an indoor function this winter might decide to take that level of risk, especially if they have been boosted.

“But if somebody is older, has underlying medical problems, and especially if they haven’t gotten the bivalent booster, that’s not a person that would recommend you go indoors without a mask,” Glatt said.

Farber said he remains frustrated with the low level of people who have received the latest COVID-19 booster shot. CDC data shows only 15.1% eligible people 5 years of age and older nationwide have received the booster. Even among people over the age of 65, considered a high risk group, only 37.5% have received it.

“If you look at the deaths and hospitalizations, they’re overwhelmingly in people over the age of 70, and this is slowly evolving into a disease of the elderly and immunosuppressed people and to a slightly lesser extent, people with lots of comorbidities,” Farber said.

“It is by no means a perfect vaccine but as these new variants evolve, there [are] only two ways to produce immunity against them,” he said. “One is reinfection over and over again at low levels and second is with the vaccine. It does prevent serious disease and I don’t think XBB changes that dynamic in that formula at all.”

A quick-moving, evasive subvariant is fueling a rising number of COVID-19 infections across New York and the U.S., recent statistics show, but scientists don’t believe it will lead to a surge in serious illness.

The subvariant, XBB 1.5, can cause infections in people who are vaccinated or recently had COVID-19, scientists have said.

They also predict a post-New Year’s bump in cases for the coming weeks.

XBB 1.5 is a subvariant of the omicron variant of the SARS-CoV-2 virus, which causes COVID-19.

What to know

  • A quick-moving COVID-19 subvariant is fueling a rising number of infections across New York and the U.S.
  • Scientists have said the subvariant, XBB 1.5, can cause infections in people who are vaccinated or recently had COVID-19.
  • The subvariant does not appear to cause a more virulent COVID-19 illness but the number of hospitalized people with the disease has been up since Thanksgiving.

In the last two weeks of December, XBB 1.5 jumped from 21.7% of new infections across the U.S. to 40.5%, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 

Dec. 2 data from the New York State Health Department showed only about 2% of new cases were attributed to XBB 1.5. By Dec. 17, the most recent data available on the agency’s website, the subvariant accounted for 24.4% of infections statewide.

It has surpassed BQ. 1 and is a close second to BQ. 1.1, subvariants that were the majority of new COVID-19 cases in New York just a few weeks ago.

“There’s no question that XBB is growing quickly and mostly likely will be dominant in the metropolitan area in the near future,” said Dr. Bruce Farber, chief of public health and epidemiology at Northwell Health. “And there continues to be an evolution, happening a little faster than many of us had predicted.”

Farber said while the subvariant does not appear to cause a more virulent form of COVID-19 illness, hospitalizations of people with the disease have been up since Thanksgiving.

“The number of people in the intensive care units and deaths from COVID-19 directly have been stable,” he said. “So most of the people with COVID-19 in the hospital have other medical problems and underlying medical problems can make COVID-19 more of a concern … the good news is most people who have COVID-19 now are not terribly ill.”

According to the CDC, more than 400,000 new cases of COVID-19 were recorded nationwide for the week ending last Wednesday. More than 2.1 million new cases were reported for the week ending Dec. 29, 2021. As of Sunday, New York’s 7-day average percentage of positive tests was more than 8%. Long Island was at more than 9%.

The actual current number of infections across the state and nation are likely higher since so many people are testing for COVID-19 at home and there are no reporting requirements.

Assessing the impact

In recent months, researchers have been trying to assess the impact of newer subvariants BQ and XBB, especially because both appear to evade immunity by vaccine and prior infection.

A recent study in the journal Cell by Columbia University researchers said the subvariants could cause a “surge in breakthrough infections as well as re-infections.” But they emphasized the COVID-19 vaccinations are still effective at preventing hospitalization and severe disease, as well as long-term effects.

“The virus will continue to evolve and generate more variants in perpetuity — that’s what viruses do,” said Dr. Amesh A. Adalja, an infectious disease expert and senior scholar at Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security in Baltimore.

“It is important to recognize that with SARS-CoV-2 there will always be evolution towards more transmissible immune evasive variants (just like there is for other coronaviruses which cause 25% of common colds),” he said in an email to Newsday. “However, due to immunity from vaccines, boosters, infections and combinations of these protection against severe disease remains intact, especially when high risk individuals stay up-to-date with boosters.”

A nuanced approach

Dr. Aaron Glatt, chairman of medicine and chief of infectious diseases at Mount Sinai South Nassau Hospital in Oceanside, said people should take a “nuanced approach” when considering how to protect themselves and loved ones against COVID-19 infections.

“If you are at higher risk, you should be much more cautious than if you are at lower risk,” he said. “And everybody has to understand that you’re willing to take the risk.”

For example, Farber said, a younger, healthy person who wants to attend an indoor function this winter might decide to take that level of risk, especially if they have been boosted.

“But if somebody is older, has underlying medical problems, and especially if they haven’t gotten the bivalent booster, that’s not a person that would recommend you go indoors without a mask,” Glatt said.

Farber said he remains frustrated with the low level of people who have received the latest COVID-19 booster shot. CDC data shows only 15.1% eligible people 5 years of age and older nationwide have received the booster. Even among people over the age of 65, considered a high risk group, only 37.5% have received it.

“If you look at the deaths and hospitalizations, they’re overwhelmingly in people over the age of 70, and this is slowly evolving into a disease of the elderly and immunosuppressed people and to a slightly lesser extent, people with lots of comorbidities,” Farber said.

“It is by no means a perfect vaccine but as these new variants evolve, there [are] only two ways to produce immunity against them,” he said. “One is reinfection over and over again at low levels and second is with the vaccine. It does prevent serious disease and I don’t think XBB changes that dynamic in that formula at all.”



Source link

LEAVE A REPLY

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here