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  4. Omicron XBB.1.5: WHO has THIS suggestion for travellers on long flights as new COVID variant spreads

Omicron XBB.1.5: WHO has THIS suggestion for travellers on long flights as new COVID variant spreads

Catherine Smallwood, WHO's senior emergency officer for Europe said, “Passengers should be advised to wear masks in high-risk settings such as long-haul flights."

Written By: Health Desk New Delhi Published on: January 12, 2023 11:14 IST
Omicron XBB.1.5
Image Source : FREEPIK Omicron XBB.1.5 update

The World Health Organization (WHO) recently urged that countries should consider recommending that passengers wear masks on long-haul flights, given the rapid spread of the latest Omicron subvariant of Covid-19 in the United States. During a press brief, the WHO and Europe officials said the XBB.1.5 subvariant was detected in small but growing numbers in Europe. 

Catherine Smallwood, WHO's senior emergency officer for Europe said, “Passengers should be advised to wear masks in high-risk settings such as long-haul flights. This should be a recommendation issued to passengers arriving from anywhere where there is widespread Covid-19 transmission."

Meanwhile, a new version of Omicron XBB.1.5 has raised concerns in many countries including India where its cases have been reported, and it has the capability to infect even those who have been vaccinated. XBB.1.5, a highly contagious 'recombinant' variant that spawned from two different BA.2 variants, is spreading in the US. According to WHO, it’s the most transmissible version of Covid. 

According to the latest data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), XBB.1.5 is spreading quickly in the US, and is estimated to account for nearly 30 per cent of Covid-19 cases in the week ending January 7. It made up 27.6 percent of the total cases in the week ending January 7, rising from 18.3 per cent from a week before and 11.5 per cent two weeks prior.

ALSO READ: New & highly-contagious 'Kraken' Covid variant is the 'most transmissible,' warns WHO

The XBB variant has been driving up cases in parts of Asia, drawing concerns for its high infectiousness. Another two dominant Omicron subvariants BQ.1 and BQ.1.1 accounted for about 55 per cent of new Covid-19 cases in the US this week, the CDC said.

Nicknamed the 'kraken variant', XBB.1.5 is a descendant of the omicron XBB subvariant - which is itself a cross between two earlier strains: BA.2.75 and BA.2.10.1. To note, the sub-variant has a much stronger affinity to ACE2, a key receptor for the virus, which allows it to bind more easily and boosts its transmissibility. Additionally, XBB.1.5 variant is the most transmissible sub-variant that has been detected yet. The variant has been found to be 120 percent faster than the previous BQ1 variant, WHO reported. The variant, however, is being watched closely by the WHO.

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