XBB.1.5 Is Yet Another New COVID-19 Subvariant — Here's Everything You Need To Know

"It is the most transmissible subvariant that has been detected yet."

Assistant Editor, MTL Blog
People walking down the streets of Montreal with face masks in the wintertime.

People walking down the streets of Montreal with face masks in the wintertime.

As of January 4, 2022, the Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC) confirmed that it is aware of 21 XBB.1.5 subvariant cases in Canada.

The newest COVID-19 subvariant known as the XBB.1.5 is the "most transmissible subvariant that's been detected yet," according to epidemiologist Dr. Maria Van Kerkhove, the World Health Organization's (WHO) COVID-19 technical lead.

XBB.1.5 is a descendant of the Omicron variant and a cross between two earlier strains: BA.2.75 and BA.2.10.1.

Although it remains unknown whether the new subvariant makes people sicker than previous versions of Omicron, the XBB.1.5 strain has a mutation that binds the virus more tightly to cells, according to the WHO.

"We are concerned about its growth advantage in particular in some countries in Europe and in the U.S., in North America, particularly the northeast part of the United States, where XBB.1.5 has rapidly replaced other circulating variants,” Kerkhove said.

No deaths linked to the new variants had been confirmed in Quebec or elsewhere in Canada. The PHAC added that growth rates won't be reported until there is sufficient data.

In the meantime, the PHAC says it will continue to monitor the new subvariant, its growth rate, symptoms and whether or not the current vaccines are suitable for combatting XBB.1.5.

XBB.1.5 is considered to be only detected sporadically, the PHAC said. "As data rolls in, growth rates can be more accurately estimated."

In order to help mitigate the epidemiological situation, Canada will temporarily require a negative COVID-19 test for travellers arriving from China, Hong Kong and Macau, where COVID-19 cases are on the rise.

This article's cover image was used for illustrative purposes only.

Mike Chaar
Assistant Editor, MTL Blog
Mike Chaar is an Assistant Editor for MTL Blog focused on recalls in Canada and is based in Montreal, Quebec.
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