It’s in the Philippines already. Yikes!
Just when you thought it was safe to go back out into the world without a face mask, Omicron XBB (a new subvariant of COVID-19) reared its ugly head.
Scientists believe this highly-mutated descendant of the Omicron variant of the SARS-CoV-2 virus is the worst form of the virus to date. XBB’s spike protein—the part that helps the virus enter our cells—has at least seven new mutations. Those mutations make it harder for our immune systems to recognize XBB, making this subvariant more likely to evade antibodies and cause infection. Evidence also suggests that monoclonal antibody therapies will be ineffective against it. In other words, some drugs may become useless in treating those who catch Omicron XBB.
This subvariant was first identified in August in India. It has since spread to Australia, Bangladesh, Denmark, Japan, and the US. Omicron XBB is also behind the current COVID-19 surge in Singapore. The number of new cases in the Lion City doubled from 4,719 on October 10 to 11,732 on October 11.
The XBB subvariant of Omicron is in many ways the worst form of the virus so far.? https://t.co/xX2g1qK7sK— The Daily Beast (@thedailybeast) October 17, 2022
In a recent press briefing, Department of Health (DOH) officer-in-charge Maria Rosario Vergeire admitted that XBB is already in the Philippines. “Batay sa latest sequencing run, nakapagtala na tayo ng 81 XBB cases mula sa dalawang rehiyon sa bansa. Seventy have recovered, eight are still ongoing isolation, at inaalam pa ang outcome ng natitirang tatlong kaso,” she said.
Alathea de Guzman, officer-in-charge of the DOH Epidemiology Bureau, confirmed that these cases were caused by local transmission as none were linked to overseas travel.
How to protect yourself from Omicron XBB
Although the original COVID-19 vaccines are less effective against XBB, getting boosted is still key to staying healthy. The new bivalent boosters by Moderna and Pfizer target BA.4 and BA.5, which are related to XBB. They’re not foolproof, but they should still keep people from being hospitalized or dying.
Health experts say that if you got COVID-19 within the last three to six months, you probably have enough antibodies to protect yourself from severe infection. But when your natural immunity wanes, you’ll be vulnerable to Omicron XBB and similar subvariants again. Staying up-to-date with vaccines and boosters is the best way to achieve uniform protection.
Continuing to adhere to minimum safety precautions may also be wise. Even if Filipinos are no longer required to mask up in outdoor settings, bring a high-quality face mask everywhere to be safe. A big hand sanitizer or rubbing alcohol bottle will also come in handy.
Stay safe, dear readers!
Featured Image Daniella Sison