New COVID-19 variant XBB.1.5 sweeping across the county

INDIANA – People who haven’t had COVID will likely catch XBB.1.5 – and many will get reinfected, experts say.

The latest COVID-19 variant XBB.1.5 is sweeping across the country. It is so contagious that even people who’ve avoided it so far are getting infected and the roughly 80% of Americans who’ve already been infected are likely to catch it again, experts say. 

As of Dec. 31, XBB.1.5 accounted for more than 40% of cases in the United States, up from about 1% less than a month earlier, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

All the things that have protected you for the past couple of years, experts are saying are not going to protect you against this new variant.

The methods for avoiding infection haven’t changed, though it can be hard to stick with them when no one else is: Get vaccinated, wear a mask, and avoid crowded spaces.

Still, vaccines remain effective at preventing severe disease and death and the antiviral Paxlovid, given in the first few days after infection, dramatically reduces progression to hospitalization.

COVID-19 symptoms typically last around five to seven days and can include fever, sore throat, muscle aches, exhaustion, nausea, cough, and sinus congestion, among other problems.

Symptoms with XBB.1.5 are the same as with earlier variants and can range from almost nothing to shortness of breath and low oxygen levels that require emergency medical attention.

It takes anywhere from two to 14 days for exposure to lead to symptoms and a positive test.  

People with COVID-19 are contagious as long as they remain positive on a rapid test, typically for about 10 days, but often longer. 

The CDC recommends people isolate for at least five days and wear an N95 or similarly protective mask for at least 10 days when around others. Day One is considered the first full day after symptoms start.