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Covid-19 Omicron XBB.1.16, Which is Being Monitored by WHO

Covid-19 globally Currently it is declining. However, there is a new Omicron variant that has emerged and is being monitored by the World Health Organization (WHO).

According to the weekly report on 30 March 2023, WHO is monitoring XBB.1.16 which is a subvariant of Omicron. It has been monitored since March 22 as the sixth variant under monitoring by WHO, what needs to be watched out for from the Omicron XBB.1.16 variant?

COVID-19 Omicron XBB.1.16 Ride in India

In a press conference on March 29 2023, WHO’s COVID-19 Technical Lead, Maria Van Kerkhove, warned that COVID-19 was not over. Answering questions from the media from India (ABP News), Maria said that XBB.1.16 is a variant currently being monitored by WHO.

“Currently, there are only around 800 XBB.1.16 sequences from 22 countries. The majority of these sequences come from India, and there, XBB.1.16 has replaced other circulating variants,” said Maria.

Covid-19 Omicron XBB.1.16

According to Reuters on March 30, 2023, India recorded a spike in cases, the most since October 2022. According to the Indian Ministry of Health at the time, India recorded more than 3,000 new COVID-19 cases in 24 hours.

Reported by Fortune, XBB.1.16 is not only found in India. This Omicron subvariant has been found in several states of the United States (US), even XBB.1.16.1 has been found in Nebraska, Missouri, and Michigan. However, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the number of both variants is still too low (1 percent).

Apart from the US, XBB.1.16 has also been found in:

  • Canada
  • English
  • Singapore
  • Australia
  • Japan
  • Israel
  • Malaysia
  • Denmark
  • New Zealand
  • German
  • South Korea
  • Spanish
  • Dutch
  • Thailand
  • Sweden
  • south Africa
  • Italy
  • China

COVID-19 Omicron XBB.1.16 Very much like XBB.1.5

Maria said that XBB.1.16 is very similar to XBB.1.5. WHO explained that XBB.1.16 is a recombinant variant of the Stealth Omicron BA.2.10.1 and BA.2.75.

Therefore, XBB.1.16 has three mutations in its spike protein (E180V, F486P, and K478R). The F486P mutation, which is also present in XBB.1.5, and K478R, means that XBB.1.16 is more resistant to neutralization of antibodies (either from a history of infection or vaccination), is more easily transmitted, and is more malignant.

So, what are the symptoms of Covid-19 XBB.1.16 to watch out for? According to the Hindustan Times, the symptoms of this subvariant are not much different from the symptoms of Omicron in general, namely:

  • Runny and stuffy nose
  • Headache
  • Stomach ache
  • Body aches
  • Fatigue (mild to severe)
  • Sore throat
  • Sneeze
  • Cough
  • Fever (more than 48 hours)
  • Loss of sense of smell (anosmia) and taste (ageusia)

Is XBB.1.16 dangerous?

WHO reports that on 27 February–26 March, 3.6 million new cases of COVID-19 were found and more than 25,000 deaths from COVID-19. The good news, this means a 27 percent reduction in new cases and 39 percent in deaths from COVID-19. Then, what about XBB.1.16?

“So far, reports do not indicate an increase in hospitalizations, ICUs, or deaths from XBB.1.16,” wrote the WHO.

Regarding the effectiveness of vaccination against XBB.1.16, Fortune reported that the booster dose should have been able to counteract this Omicron subvariant, especially the bivalent vaccine dose. Apart from that, Paxlovid is also claimed to have played a major role in saving COVID-19 patients.

Even so, WHO warns that there are currently no in-depth studies on the severity of XBB.1.16. Maria also reminded that we must remain alert to XBB.1.16, and WHO will continue to work closely with its member countries.

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