COVID-19 Variations Make New Rounds Across the World


Natalie Kolb

A new mutation of the COVID-19 Omicron strand makes its way across the world.

Gianna Iadevaia, Reporter

Nearly three years after the infamous Coronavirus’s reign across the world, a new and more ‘transmissible’ mutation of the omicron strain, XBB.1.5, has been identified in parts of the United States. Many claim that the origin of XBB.1.5 resulted from vaccinations, but this has been proven false. A combination of different mutations of the omicron strain caused the variant to become easier to spread, even among those who were previously infected or vaccinated. Scientists have mentioned that mutations could also allow the virus to evade the original COVID-19 vaccination itself.

The characteristics of the mutation are much different when addressing how transmissible it is. According to the CDC, it binds even more to receptors in the human body than other variants.

“The virus needs to bind tightly to cells to be more efficient at getting in and that could help the virus be a little bit more efficient at infecting people,” said Andrew Pekosz, a virologist at Johns Hopkins University, to CNBC.

Early information about the variant was difficult to achieve. For example. with the mutation’s growth in China, there was a lack of hospital data released to the U.S. In December, there was a sudden stop in the production of COVID-19 related data as a whole from the China National Health Commission, such as the number of deaths and infections.

XBB.1.5 already makes up around 28% of COVID cases in the country, already being the fourth most prevalent strand in Iowa. On the report of the state’s most recent data regarding their statistics for the variant, more than 3,000 positive tests have been reported in just one week.

With the authority of reports from the CDC, XBB.5 makes up 75% per cent of covid cases in New England, New York, and New Jersey, along with 40% of new COVID cases in America overall. Deaths from COVID-19 across the globe have gone up by 15% in the last month. This is a surprising statistic, given that there was a downward spiral of deaths being the fourth most prevalent strand caused by COVID in the last several months. XBB.1.5 grew from about 1% of cases nationwide to 27% according to data collected from January 7th.  Though severe infections and deaths that have been reported are proportionately low, most things, including how dangerous it can be, are unknown about the variant as of right now.

According to Sinai Hospital Chief Medical Officer Esti Schabelman, “It is outcompeting Omicron and other variants.” The variant is more contagious, and roughly 80% of Americans have already been infected with COVID and are likely to catch it again. In an estimation conducted by The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, this new variant will become dominant in the coming weeks. The growth of the variant has been extreme, proving that its transmission has been more advanced than any other mutations that have expanded as a result of COVID.

Traveling without a mask is an enormous part of the newfound infection as well.

As of January 11th, the Biden Administration has extended their COVID public health emergency until April.

According to a spokesperson for the Health and Human Services Department, “The COVID-19 Public Health Emergency remains in effect, and as HHS committed to earlier, we will provide a 60-day notice to states before any possible termination or expiration,”

Ways to prevent and slow the spread of XBB.1.5 are similar to COVID-19. The CDC still recommends getting vaccinated, wear a mask, and avoid crowded spaces. New boosters have been brought up, which target both the original virus and new variants such as the BA.4 and BA.5. They are more protective against XBB.1.5 than the earlier boosters, given that scientists claim the original one can easily be bypassed by the new mutation.

Even with these precautions, most are still vulnerable to the variant.