Jan 9, 2023 - COVID

New Omicron variant begins spreading in Iowa

Illustration of a COVID virus cell being overshadowed by a significantly larger COVID virus cell.

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

The XBB.1.5 COVID-19 subvariant — a new version of the Omicron variant — is slowly growing in Iowa.

State of play: XBB.1.5 makes up about 28% of COVID cases in the country and is the fourth most prevalent strain here in Iowa.

  • In the northeast region of the U.S., it makes up almost 75% of cases.

The intrigue: XBB.1.5 is different from previous variants because it can attach itself better to cells, CNBC reports.

  • "The virus needs to bind tightly to cells to be more efficient at getting in and that could help the virus be a little bit more efficient at infecting people," Andrew Pekosz, a virologist at Johns Hopkins University, told CNBC.

Of note: There do not appear to be any additional COVID-19 symptoms tied to XBB.1.5.

  • "There's no suggestion at this point that XBB.1.5 is more severe," Dr. Barbara Mahon of the CDC, told CBS News.

Yes, but: Scientists said it has mutations that could allow the virus to evade COVID-19 vaccine boosters and cause more breakthrough infections, according to CNBC.

  • In October, the XBB subvariant was deemed best suited to evade COVID-19 immunity, Axios' Erin Doherty reported.

What's next: Hospitals and medical facilities were inundated prior to the holidays in December, but infections and hospitalizations have dipped down now in January.


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