The Omicron variant XBB.1.5 is currently driving the infection wave in Austria

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For weeks, a new, highly contagious Corona variant has again dominated Austria: the omicron derivative XBB.1.5 is the first recombinant to account for more than 60 percent of the country’s infection incidence and shows no signs of slowing down. “XBB.1.5 is currently the most common variant,,, and on the rise; the other lineages are rather on the decline,” virologist Norbert Nowotny confirmed in an interview published by “Heute.”

Regarding the number of new infections, the human and veterinary virologist from the University of Veterinary Medicine Vienna assumes many unreported cases. Fewer and fewer in the country would perform PCR tests. This would also explain the divergence between the human and sewage curves. The latter is currently even at a level as we had a year ago with the Omicron wave.

Nevertheless, the expert is not too worried now: “I assume that this wave will remain quite moderate and will tend to flatten out in the coming weeks.” Here, he said, the upcoming start of spring, in particular, plays a major role. “With the onset of spring, the seasonal will counteract and, in my opinion, win.” As things stand, this would leave relatively little virus circulating until the Corona measures expire on June 30, the expert said.

However, Corona is not over with it, of course. “In the fall, a new variant will dominate again, because these omicron lineages tend to mutate much more than earlier virus variants and therefore also form new variants. For the most part, these are even a touch more contagious and better able to evade the immune system. In the sense that vaccinations and passed through infections with other virus variants still protect against a severe course, but only a relatively short time before infection.”

Nevertheless, SARS-CoV-2 no longer plays a role as it has in the past three years, he said. “Corona is simply a viral respiratory infection more, which is classified in terms of severity between influenza and true flu – or similar to true flu. In all likelihood, it will become seasonal relatively soon, so we’ll really see it primarily in the fall and winter.” He said there would be one higher coronavirus wave, one higher influenza wave and one higher RS virus wave in the future.

The so-called game changer here was the further development of the virus in the direction of omicron. While all previous variants affected the lower respiratory tract – i.e. the lungs – and thus ensured a severe course, in the case of the omicron lines, it is primarily the upper respiratory tract affected. “This means that in the future we will be dealing more with mild to moderate disease patterns. Which doesn’t mean, however, that older people in particular and those with pre-existing conditions can’t still get more severely ill from Omikron variants.”

This is precisely why Nowotny recommends annual corona vaccination for certain groups of people, “In the fall and winter, all viral respiratory infections will come back. That means vulnerable groups – the elderly and those with pre-existing conditions – should get a Corona, a flu and maybe even a pneumococcal vaccine in the fall.” That would get them through the dangerous few months better protected.

  • source: heute.at/picture: pixabay.com
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