Three years have passed since the pandemic started but the fight against Covid-19 is far from over. Infections continue as the virus is able to evolve rapidly into newer variants. Just last December, a variant of concern is being closely monitored creating a surge of infections in the United States. This new variant, genomically identified as XBB.1.5, is an Omicron subvariant and is seen as the most transmissible variant so far.
XBB.1.5, according to experts, is one of the variants most efficient in causing an infection, spreads a lot faster and causes an increase in hospitalization rates where it is dominant. Though quite alarming, the World Health Organization is still looking further on the characteristics of this new variant.
Symptoms are the same as with earlier variants and can range from mild to severe symptoms that may require medical emergency. This may last from five to seven days and can include fever, sore throat, muscle aches, exhaustion, nausea, cough and colds, among others.
Likewise, methods for avoiding it have not changed: getting vaccinated, wearing masks and avoiding crowded spaces.
As of this writing, XBB.1.5 has not been detected in the Philippines but the government has assured us that whatever variant may come, measures are being taken to prevent and minimize an uptick of cases in the country. The Department of Health even anticipates a possible increase of cases because of the recently concluded holiday season combined with the easing of mask mandates late last year. Nevertheless, recent data have displayed a downward trend especially in Metro Manila. Though on a decline, we should remain vigilant and continue to practice minimum public health standards as Covid-19 variants continue to emerge and reemerge.
Mikhail Albert Domingo Bulatao