COVID-19 experts around the world are watching with concern as the XBB.1.5 subvariant spreads like wildfire in the United States.
There aren’t yet confirmed cases in Israel. But some 41 percent of American cases are now categorized as XBB.1.5, doubling the number of diagnoses in just a week, making the strain dominant. And so, with significant travel between the US and Israel, it’s expected to only be a matter of time until it arrives in the Holy Land.
If it does, it could shake the relative COVID calm the country is enjoying now, with around 1,000 new confirmed cases per day, and falling deaths and serious cases.
Nothing like XBB.1.5 has been seen since late 2021, according to immunologist Dr. Yariv Wine of Tel Aviv University.
“It seems to be faster spreading than any other variant since Omicron emerged in November 2021 and then spread fast in early 2022,” Wine commented. “Virologists are calling it ‘a hell of a variant’ because it’s so transmissible.”
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Dr. Eric Feigl-Ding, an epidemiologist and chief of the COVID Risk Task Force at the New England Complex Systems Institute, has called XBB1.5 a “super variant.”
File: Technicians carry out a diagnostic test for COVID-19 in a lab at a branch of Leumit Health Care Services in Or Yehuda on January 21, 2022. (Yossi Zeliger/Flash90)
XBB.1.5, which is mutated from the original Omicron strain, appears to be spreading faster than others because it is better at attaching itself to human cells.
“A mutation in the virus is located at the site where it binds to the human cells,” said Wine. “To effectively infect humans, the v …