Since mid-December, the omicron derivative XBB.1.5 has been making headlines. In the U.S., the coronavirus variant accounted for a quarter of cases quickly. In Austria, its share recently doubled every week. The Stockholm-based EU health agency ECDC expects the sublineage to continue to spread rapidly.
According to a recent assessment published by the agency, mathematical models would suggest that XBB.1.5 could become dominant in Europe as early as one to two months.
But although the variant is considered highly contagious because of its mutations, the “octopus,” as the variant has come to be called, does not pose a major risk to most people in Europe, it said. He said it is considered low for the general population in the European Economic Area.
In contrast, there is a moderate to high risk, depending on immunity to the coronavirus, for vulnerable people such as the elderly, the unvaccinated and the immunocompromised. Therefore, ECDC recommends testing be conducted and evaluated, more corona vaccinations are administered, and infection prevention and control measures are strengthened.
According to the report, there is also no evidence that infection with XBB.1.5 results in a more severe disease course than infection with previous omicron sublines. Molecular biologist Ulrich Elling shares this opinion. The researcher from the Institute of Molecular Biotechnology (IMBA) of the Austrian Academy of Sciences (ÖAW) is responsible, together with his team, for sequencing surveillance throughout Austria.
According to scientists, the decisive factor here is the hybrid immunity of the population. In other words, the combination of vaccination and the protection provided by a previous infection in each individual. Given this, “the topic is dangerous variant a superfluous discussion,” Elling said.
- source: heute.at/picture:
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