Is it a cause for concern?, Health News, ET HealthWorld

Omicron XBB variant: Is it a cause for concern?

New Delhi: The World Health Organisation (WHO) and other health experts continue to warn that the COVID-19 pandemic is far from over, a new variant of the omicron sub-lineage has surfaced in genome sequencing. Few countries are witnessing a sharp increase in cases and amongst those, Singapore has reported the highest numbers of the latest recombinant, XBB variant.

The XBB sub-variant in India has reached a tally of 71 cases across a handful of states, with Maharashtra reporting its first five infections on Thursday. Other states include West Bengal, Odisha and Tamil Nadu.

What is the new XBB variant?

The new XBB, also known as BA.2.10, is a recombinant variant between two omicron sub-lineages, BJ.1 and BA.2.75, first detected in Singapore and the US in August. As of now, Australia, Bangladesh, Denmark, India and Japan have also reported cases of this variant.

Is XBB a variant of concern?

Since WHO has labelled Omicron as the ‘variant of concern’, its sub-variants are also being treated as the same. Singapore Health Minister Ong Ye Kung informed, “XBB is demonstrating characteristics that it is dominating over all other sub-variants”. But there is no evidence that the new sub-variant is leading to more severe outcomes, he added.

What is India’s response to the variant?

Speaking to the media agency, Dr Rajesh Karyakarte, State Coordinator, Genome sequencing, said, “The XBB is another hybrid version of Omicron. We are closely monitoring its spread in Maharashtra.”

It is reported that BA.2.75 was responsible for approximately 88 per cent of new infections, while the XBB sub-variant was responsible for approximately 7 per cent of all cases. The prevalence of BA.5 in samples is now less than 5 per cent in India.

How can I protect myself?

Although there are no clear instructions on precautions for this particular Omicron variant, experts have been advising on following COVID appropriate behaviour (CAB), adopting preventive measures by wearing a mask and using hand sanitisers for all COVID-19 variants.

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