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Doctors discuss the most contagious COVID strain yet—XBB.1.5

new covid variant

The WHO is warning that the new omicron subvariant—XBB.1.5—is the most transmissible strain to date. This new variant has already become the dominant strain in parts of the United States, especially the Northeast. Scientists and doctors do not yet know if this new variant causes more severe illness or leads to more adverse outcomes, like long COVID. 

In a recent poll of about 400 global Sermo physicians, 19% said they have already treated patients with the new XBB.1.5 variant. Sixty-nine% of physicians said they are seeing a rise of COVID in their area; and 88% believe holiday gatherings contributed to this growing number of new cases.  

When asked about COVID reinfections, 32% of doctors said they have been infected more than once. Here’s how they responded when asked what percentage of their patients have experienced COVID reinfections: 

  • 6% said that 0% of patients have been reinfected 
  • 57% said that 25% of patients have been reinfected 
  • 22% said that 50% have been reinfected 
  • 7% said 75% have been reinfected 
  • 1% said 100% have been reinfected 

According to USA Today, “Essentially, everyone in the country is at risk for infection now, even if they’re super careful, up to date on vaccines or have caught it before, said Paula Cannon, a virologist at the University of Southern California.  

‘It’s crazy infectious,’ said Cannon, who is recovering from her first case of COVID-19, caught when she was vacationing over the holidays in her native Britain.  

‘All the things that have protected you for the past couple of years, I don’t think are going to protect you against this new crop of variants,’ she said.  

The number of severe infections and deaths remains relatively low, despite the high level of infections, she said, thanks to vaccinations – and probably – previous infections.  

The latest variant, called XBB.1.5, grew exponentially over the month of December, from about 1% of cases nationwide to 40% as of Dec. 31, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The variant is likely behind the vast majority of cases in New York and New England.  

Its growth is probably due to XBB.1.5’s characteristics – it appears to bind even more tightly to receptors in the human body than its predecessors – as well as human behavior, such as traveling and not masking.” 

Below, Sermo physicians from around the world share more of their perspectives and opinions on this new variant—in their own words: 

My wife and I both came down with COVID in Dec. I tested positive on Dec. 20th and my wife 3 days later. In my case, I was terribly fatigued and had typical flu like symptoms, as did my wife. We both felt like crap missed Christmas, New Year’s and our younger son’s wedding on the 2nd of January. My wife still tested positive, while I tested negative with the at home tests. I improved, though still very fatigued, and went to the office to see a few compulsory patients on Wednesday the 4th. Unfortunately, my wife became even more fatigued and collapsed on the floor in the afternoon on Jan. 5th. I called 911 and sent her to the ER. Hospital PCR X 2 has tested her positive. Her O2 Sat was 87-90% BP, 90/50. It’s now 6 days later, and she’s still on intermittent 2 L O2 as she Desat’s walking from the Bed to the Bathroom. She’s still in a monitored bed with her BP normalized. Mild strain?!?!? – All I can say is BS!! This crap has certainly damaged and changed our lives. I can only believe that due to the contagious virulence of this variant, the already overtaxed hospital system is in for an even worse awakening!! By the way, we are both vaccinated.”

Family Medicine, U.S.

“I have it right now; my first episode of Covid 19. And it’s not mild!”

Family Medicine, U.S.

“It is worse than expected and thought. Vaccines are not fool proof, not the “Silver Bullet”. We are up for an awakening, and the Flu season has just started. Let’s wait and see how the new Covid wave will develop and unroll before our eyes. I’d say, keep wearing masks in all public places, avoid crowds, large gatherings, shop safely, be cautious, avoid unnecessary contacts, check and do your own at-home Covid Testing; it is not over yet, and not over until the “Fat Lady Sings”, and she hasn’t sung yet!”

Pediatrics, U.S.

Cannot understand why we are bothered about this. All the omicron variants are producing a fairly mild disease which generally seems to have a similar or milder virulence to influenza. In a busy acute medicine unit, I have not seen a single case of covid pneumonitis since Xmas 2021. Yes we have lots of patients with covid in hospoital but the vast majority are in hospital because of ischaemic heart disease or COPD and just coincidentally are swabbed positive for covid. I have not treated anyone with antivirals because I have not seen the need. Yes, some elderly and vulnerable peopel may die from covid in the same way that they have always died from flu. I am delighted not to be wearing a surgical mask any more. They are always quoted as a “no- risk” intervention but they are not…they impede communication with elderly, hard of hearing patients, they cost money, the produce excessive waste and they reduce the genearl communication between patients and staff and between it is great to be out of them!”

Infectious Diseases, UK 

“More contagious yes …. but also milder.”

Family Medicine, U.S.

The new wave of Covid cases in my area looks no different than the previous wave. Thank goodness. Benign.”

Family Medicine, US 

“This new variant of COVID 19 is not yet in our territory, but a new epidemiological rise in the disease is expected, due to tourism and existing emigration-immigration.”

Family Medicine, Cuba 

“This new variant of COVID 19 is not yet in our territory, but a new epidemiological rise in the disease is expected, due to tourism and existing emigration-immigration.”

Family Medicine, Cuba 

“No cases of the new variant Yet—XBB.1.5 of covid 19 have been reported in Cuba. However, we have already started the third booster dose with the Anti-Covid vaccines in the population to prevent outbreaks.”

General Practitioner, Cuba

“Have had Covid twice, but seem to be quite immune at this point.”

Rheumatology, US

“This omicron subvariant called XBB 1.5 has a high incidence of contagion and is nicknamed a sea monster. This is a mutation of the XBB, what worries is the F486P mutation, which restores the ability to overcome the defenses of the human body and infest cells.”

Internal Medicine, Cuba 

“There is Covid 19 apathy, fatigue, etc. and this is why we still and will continue covid 19 infections. I recall the Smallpox vaccine ended the smallpox infection worldwide, in the 1970’s, as most persons got this vaccine. How about that!”

Infectious Disease, US 

“Here in Mexico there is an explosion of cases that are not reported due to lack of supplies, but with all the clinics that we already know, it is a shame.”

General Practitioner, Mexico

“COVID – flu – RSV – all on the rise – but who can say which COVID variant is going around with home and office testing not specific enough to say.”

Pediatrics, US 

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