Omicron sub-variant may be more resistant to drugs VDH says

As if the "triple-demic" wasn't bad enough - there's now a new Covid variant going around.
Published: Jan. 3, 2023 at 7:42 PM EST
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RICHMOND, Va. (WWBT) - The new year is ringing in a new COVID strain of the Omicron variant known as XBB.1.5, which experts warn is quickly spreading across the U.S.

XBB Omicron already accounts for about 40 percent of COVID cases across the country. The variant is also blamed for about 75 percent of patients in the Northeast. Despite the prevalence of the sub-variant, VDH Public Health Specialist Dr. Brooke Rossheim says the new strain has not made the same level of impact in Virginia.

“Right now, in Virginia, if you look at XBB, it’s about 8 percent of all the variants,” Dr. Rossheim said.

Dr. Rossheim says that other Omicron strains known as BQ variants which behave similarly to XBB account for about half of the COVID-19 cases in the state.

“One of the strains we’re looking at is called BQ.1. Another is called BQ.1,” Rossheim said. “From a clinical perspective, the symptoms that these variants cause are really not much different in essence than the symptoms of other variants. What is different is that these variants are more resistant to drugs.”

Experts say it’s also capable of re-infecting people who have already been sick and recovered from COVID, But Rossheim says the jury is still out on how resistant the new strain is to the current vaccines.

“There is some data that is suggestive that I have read that the vaccine to me does not provide the same amount of immunity to this new variance, but then there are also data suggesting that the bivalent vaccines may provide adequate coverage. So I would say in this one, it’s not a definitive picture yet.”

As recently as last Friday, the seven-day average of daily COVID hospitalizations reached over 42,000 cases across the country, which is about a 42 percent increase from about two weeks ago as people gathered for the holidays.

The VDH says the best way to protect ourselves from this latest strain is by being up to date on vaccines, especially if you’ve never received a shot.

“So people who are older, we encourage them to get vaccinated and also people who are at high risk for severe COVID illness,” Rossheim said.

Now Rossheim says it’s also essential to know when you have COVID and encourages people to take advantage of free COVID tests from the federal government. Every household across the country is eligible for four tests.