A highly contagious Covid strain has emerged and is already behind one in 25 cases in the UK, surveillance data suggests.The strain — dubbed XBB.
A highly contagious Covid strain has emerged and is already behind one in 25 cases in the UK, surveillance data suggests.
The strain — dubbed XBB.1.5 — has caused alarm in the US over its quick spread and a recent rise in hospitalisations. It is behind four in 10 cases in the country, up from two in 10 just one week earlier.
The variant, which is a sub-variant of Omicron, has mutations that help it to better infect people and dodge protection from vaccination and prior infection.
Sequencing data suggests it was already behind four per cent of cases in the UK the week before Christmas.
However, experts caution that there is no indication the strain causes more severe illness than earlier strains.
Data from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) on Friday showed that the strain is behind 41 per cent of cases.
Dr Barbara Mahon, director of the CDC’s Coronavirus and Other Respiratory Viruses Division, told CBS News: ‘We’re projecting that it’s going to be the dominant variant in the Northeast region of the country and that it’s going to increase in all regions of the country.’
She added: ‘There’s no suggestion at this point that XBB.1.5 is more severe.’
Figures from the Sanger Institute, one of the UK’s largest Covid surveillance centres, shows four per cent of cases in the week to December 17 were caused by XBB.1.5.
It is the first time the strain has been listed on the institute’s virus dashboard, which is updated weekly.
The strain is a mutated version of Omicron XBB, which was first detected in India in August.
XBB, which is a merger of variants BJ.1 and BA.2.75, caused cases to quadruple in just one month in some nations.
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