The Omicron subvariant of SARS-CoV-2, XBB.1.5, is causing concern among scientists after its rapid spread in the United States in December last year.
Here is what we know so far:
WHAT IS THE XBB.1.5 SUBVARIANT AND HOW DOES IT BEHAVE?
Photo: EPA-EFE 照片：歐新社
The World Health Organization’s senior epidemiologist Maria Van Kerkhove said XBB.1.5 is the most transmissible Omicron sub-variant that has been detected so far. It spreads rapidly because of the mutations it contains, allowing it to adhere to cells and replicate easily.
“Our concern is how transmissible it is,” Van Kerkhove said in a news briefing on Jan. 4.
XBB and XBB.1.5 were estimated to account for 44.1% of COVID-19 cases in the US in the week of Dec. 31, up from 25.9% in the previous week, according to data from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. It has also been detected in 28 other countries worldwide, the WHO said.
Photo: EPA-EFE 照片：歐新社
XBB.1.5 is yet another descendant of Omicron, the most contagious variant of the virus causing COVID-19 that is now globally dominant. It is an offshoot of XBB, first detected in October last year, which is itself a recombinant of two other Omicron sub-variants.
HOW DANGEROUS IS XBB.1.5?
The WHO said it does not have any data on severity yet, or a clinical picture on its impact. It said that it saw no indication that its severity had changed but that increased transmissibility is always a concern.
“We do expect further waves of infection around the world, but that doesn’t have to translate into further waves of death because our countermeasures continue to work,” said Van Kerkhove, referring to vaccines and treatments.
She said the WHO was unable to currently attribute the increase in hospitalizations in the northeastern US to the variant, given that many other respiratory viruses were also in circulation.
Virologists agree that the emergence of the new subvariant does not mean there is a new crisis in the pandemic. New variants are to be expected as the virus continues to spread.
XBB.1.5 is likely to spread globally, but it remains unclear if it will cause its own wave of infections around the world. Current vaccines continue to protect against severe symptoms, hospitalisation and death, the experts say.
“There is no reason to think that XBB.1.5 is of any more concern than other variants that come and go in the ever-changing landscape of COVID-19 mutants,” said Professor Andrew Pollard, director of the Oxford Vaccine Group.
WHAT IS THE WHO DOING ABOUT IT?
The WHO’s Technical Advisory Group on Virus Evolution is doing a risk assessment on the subvariant. Van Kerkhove said on Jan. 4 it hoped to publish that in the next few days.
Professor Tulio de Oliveira, a South African scientist who sits on the committee, said the situation was “complex,” particularly given the global context of the surge of cases in China after it dropped its zero-COVID policy in December last year.
The WHO said it was closely monitoring any possible changes in the severity of the subvariant with the help of laboratory studies and real world data.
A festive time of light 元宵佳節知多少 Occurring on the 15th day of the initial month of the Lunar New Year, when the first full moon appears, the Lantern Festival is a festive time that continues the good cheer and celebration sparked by Chinese New Year. It also simultaneously marks the end of that annual event. It’s a time when lanterns and other colorful lights and decorations adorn stores, businesses, and streets in Chinese communities around the globe. Aside from honoring ancestors, the festival is also meant to foster peace, forgiveness, and harmony. Lantern displays are the center of attention during the Lantern Festival in Taiwan. Parks across
Eating glutinous rice balls during the Lantern Festival Lunar New Year celebrations traditionally conclude with the Lantern Festival, which is on the 15th day of the first lunar month. With every household decorated with lanterns and streamers, the Lantern Festival can be seen as an extended New Year celebration. Lighting lanterns during the Lantern Festival can be traced to the Western Han Dynasty in China. The 15th day of the first lunar month is the first full moon of the year, and has the significance of a new start. People light lanterns to pray for a bumper harvest in the coming
你叫什麼名字？ What’s your name? 對話 Dialogue 馬可：你好！你叫什麼名字？ Make: Nǐ hǎo! Nǐ jiào shénme míngzi? 小實：我叫小實，你呢？ Xiaoshi: Wǒ jiào Xiǎoshí, nǐ ne? 馬可：我叫馬可。 Make: Wǒ jiào Mǎkě. 小實：馬可，你是美國人嗎？ Xiaoshi: Mǎkě, nǐ shì Měiguó rén ma? 馬可：我是美國人，你也是美國人嗎？ Make: Wǒ shì Měiguó rén, nǐ yěshì Měiguó rén ma? 小實：不是，我是臺灣人。很高興認識你。 Xiaoshi: Búshì, wǒ shì Táiwān rén. Hěn gāoxìng rènshì nǐ. 馬可：我也很高興認識你。 Make: Wǒ yě hěn gāoxìng rènshì nǐ. 翻譯 Translation Mark: Hello! What’s your name? Xiaoshi: My name is Xiaoshi, and you? Mark: My name is Mark. Xiaoshi: Mark, are you American? Mark: Yes, I am. Are you American too? Xiaoshi: No, I’m Taiwanese. Nice to meet you. Mark: Nice to meet you too. 單字片語 Vocabulary 1. 叫(jiào) to be called 2. 什麼 (shénme) what 3. 呢 (ne) a (question)
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