Nebraska Med doctor says new Omicron variant is on its way to the Midwest

XBB.1.5. is already spreading fast through the Northeast and accounts for 40% of COVID cases nationwide.
The CDC says a new strain of Omicron accounts for 40% of active COVID cases in the US.
Published: Jan. 2, 2023 at 4:21 PM CST
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OMAHA, Neb. (WOWT) - Public health experts are concerned about a new variant of Omicron.

Dubbed XBB.1.5., the variant is rapidly spreading across parts of the U.S., thanks in part to a busy holiday travel season.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says about 40% of COVID cases in the U.S. right now are caused by the new strain, having doubled in just a week.

Most cases are in the Northeast, but Dr. James Lawler with Nebraska Medicine says XBB.1.5 is on its way to the Midwest.

“It is now the predominate variant circulating in much of the United States,” he said.

Health experts say it’s not clear where this version of Omicron came from or if it’s more contagious than other strains. Lawler says the variant is able to escape immunity from prior infection and vaccination.

“We are seeing much higher levels of hospitalization in areas where this particular variant XBB.1.5 is taking off,” he said.

Health experts say the new strain is resistant to many treatments doctors had relied on earlier in the pandemic.

Lawler says people who are 65 or older and those who are not up-to-date with their shots are at higher risk.

“Especially in folks who have not received a recent booster dose of COVID vaccine with the bivalent form or just haven’t been vaccinated against COVID in a long period of time,” he said.

Lawler also recommends putting masks back on in public places and at large gatherings.

“I strongly encourage folks to use masks, we know they work,” he said.