(CNN Spanish) — Scientists warn that the XBB.1.5 variant of the coronavirus may be the most transmissible since omicron, which caused strong waves of infections, but say that, so far, there is no indication that it causes more serious illness.
During the month of December, the percentage of new covid-19 infections in the United States caused by XBB.1.5 increased from an estimated 4% to 41%.
Experts have already released some warnings to keep in mind. Dr. Ashish Jha, the White House response coordinator for COVID-19, said that XBB.1.5 is probably the most capable of breaching our immune defenses and may be the most contagious. Maria Van Kerkhove, epidemiologist and WHO technical leader on covid-19, went a little further and assured that the variant —which was first detected in the United States and has spread to at least 29 countries— “is the way most transmissible of omicron to date”.
There’s one point the two scientists made: It’s not yet clear whether it causes more serious disease. So far there is no indication that this is the case, so most experts have said that while they expect XBB.1.5 to have the potential to cause more disease, they don’t expect those infections to be necessarily more serious.
What we know about the symptoms
“From what is known so far, the symptoms are no different from those of omicron,” Dr. Elmer Huerta, a specialist in Public Health, told CNN en Español. These include sore throat, cough, and fatigue —and less loss of smell and taste compared to the effect of other previous variants such as alpha, beta, gamma, and delta.
However, “the symptoms take a while to consolidate,” he said. This is linked to how the information is studied: the symptoms are tabulated and entered into databases, and the analysis of these data is not necessarily fast, Huerta explained.
Therefore, for this moment “there is not yet a scientific publication or something that confirms” the question of symptoms. An update from WHO is expected shortly.