On video: hospitals and cemeteries in China are packed (Reuters)
Chances are you're already up to date with what's happening in China right now when it comes to Corona, but the new Omicron strain responsible for this outbreak is already making its way around the world.
The new strain, called XBB.1.5, managed to double its distribution from 21.5 to 41 percent of the new infections in the US within a week, and is also responsible for the increase in morbidity in India and other countries. Vedhuri, director of the corona floor at the Washington University School of Medicine's virology laboratory.
As a result, the United States announced that starting today (Thursday), Chinese who want to enter it must show a negative corona test conducted two days before the flight. Italy, Japan, India, Malaysia and Taiwan They also announced the obligation to carry out tests for every person arriving from China. And here in Israel, incoming health minister Arie Deri decided to carry out corona tests for those arriving from China.
So what do we know about the new strain?
What is the origin of the new variety?
This strain of the Omicron evolved from the XBB variant of the Omicron, which itself is a sort of hybrid of two different BA.2 variants.
How fast does the new strain spread?
Taking the US as an example: the rising number of hospitalizations in New York raises fears that XBB.1.5 is about to cause further waves of disease as it spreads to other countries. Some estimates in the US suggest that XBB.1.5 is spreading more than twice Faster than version BQ.1.1, which is one of the most common versions across countries in the world.
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Why is it spreading so fast?
The new version has an unusual mutation known as F486P that helps it spread.
The mutation changes a part of the corona virus that many antibodies from the vaccines target.
The change makes the antibodies less effective in neutralizing the virus.
The parent variant, XBB, has a different mutation at the same position.
This makes XBB also good at evading immune defenses, but the mutation comes at a price: the virus can't attach to human cells as efficiently, so the virus is actually less contagious.
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But the new offspring, XBB.1.5, does not suffer from such a handicap: the F486P mutation allows it to escape antibodies without compromising its ability to attach to human cells.
In fact, it binds to them even more strongly than XBB, increasing its stickiness.
"The mutation can provide this immune evasion without affecting the number of infections, which is why it has become so successful," says Ravi Gupta, professor of clinical microbiology at the University of Cambridge in an interview with the British Guardian.
The White House Medical Advisor, Dr. Anthony Fauci, even admitted that the XBB "reduces to some extent" the protection provided by the booster shots.
Does the new strain cause a more severe disease?
There is no evidence that XBB.1.5 causes more severe disease than other Omicron variants.
But the fact that it's spreading so quickly is worrying, as the virus tends to reach vulnerable people who could be hospitalized or die from the infection, especially if they haven't received a booster.
Will it cause another wave in the world?
This is largely the concern.
In the US, scientists suspect that XBB.1.5 is at least partially responsible for the increase in hospital admissions in New York, although the freezing weather and the subsequent and holiday gatherings in homes also contributed.
Paradoxically, the winter wave of influenza and other respiratory viruses such as RSV that occur Now any surge in corona can be blunted. If you contract a virus, it should activate your immune system, the body's frontline defense against pathogens, which offers at least some protection against viruses that follow. So if you've had the flu or another respiratory virus recently, the immune defenses may also help in an encounter with Corona.
So what do you do? Experts suggest that if possible, it is recommended to take steps to reduce contact, wear high-quality masks in crowded indoor spaces, and isolate if you have symptoms.