The latest covid variant – dubbed XBB.1.5 – is so highly contagious that most people who haven’t had it likely will get the virus, health experts are warning.
Early in December, Centers for Disease Control data showed XBB.1.5 accounted for around 1% of infections nationwide. That grew to 27% by the first of January, overtaking as the predominant strain in the northeast.
“It’s crazy infectious,” Paula Cannon, a virologist at the University of Southern California told USA Today. “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.”
The variant is so contagious because it “appears to bind even more tightly to the receptors in the human body than its predecessors,” USA Today added.
So far, the virus does not appear to cause more severe illness than earlier variants.
Symptoms can range from mild symptoms to severe illness, typically appearing between 2-14 days after exposure. The CDC continues to recommend people get tested at least 5 days after their exposure to COVID-19.
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The most common symptoms thus far reportedly include:
- Body aches
- Sore throat
- Runny nose
- Muscle aches
Less common are reports of loss of taste or smell and shortness of breath, all hallmarks of earlier variants.