(NEXSTAR) — Just days after the BA.2 strain of coronavirus achieved world dominance, international health officials are already turning their attention to a new, mutant variant believed to be even more transmissible — XE.
XE is a combination of the first form of omicron to spread across the globe, BA.1, and so-called “stealth omicron,” the subvariant BA.2, that is now dominant.
The highly transmissible XE strain was first detected in the United Kingdom on January 19, according to the WHO document, and there have been more than 600 documented cases in the UK since.
Preliminary findings suggest that XE may be about 10% more transmissible than BA.2, which is considered 50-60% more transmissible than its omicron predecessor, according to Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease expert.
How deadly XE turns out to be is still a question mark when it comes to XE as health experts continue to monitor the subvariant’s spread.
“The transmissibility and the severity of this new recombinant variant is still being investigated, so we will closely monitor the latest situation,” said Chuang Shuk-kwan, head of the Communicable Disease Branch at Hong Kong’s Center for Health Protection (CHP).
How to prepare for another COVID-19 wave
As the nation takes a collective breath after the fall of COVID hospitalizations and deaths, thinking about how to prepare for yet another wave is an exhausting proposition for many.
Dr. Peter Chin-Hong, an infectious disease expert at the University of California at San Francisco School of Medicine, says there are five things people should do, just in case.
COVID numbers are the new weather report: Keep an eye on the CDC tracking numbers that will reveal new outbreaks. If you want advanced notice, “you can also look at the wastewater epidemiology if you really want to get an even earlier look,” Chin-Hong said.
Keep your closet stocked: Make sure you have a good supply of masks and tests, which will be highly sought after if we see spiking cases.
Eligible Americans should be up to date on the vaccine: Maximize your body’s ability to keep you alive and out of the hospital by getting the COVID vaccine and recommended boosters – “especially the first booster for older people and the second booster for the oldest, above 75 or 80,” Chin-Hong said. “But everybody should at least get the three shots.”
Know how and when to access early therapy: The Biden administration has launched an all-in-one resource for Americans to help them navigate questions around COVID-19 treatments, testing, vaccines and other resources. “Many people don’t even know how to get Paxlovid, what it’s good for, when to take it – but that’s all going to be key because it’s going to keep people healthy and away from the hospital even if they’re not vaccinated.
Stock your medicine cabinet: If you do get sick but don’t need to be hospitalized, you’ll still want relief from symptoms. Painkillers, decongestants and other medications could ease your recovery. Some people may even want to invest in other tools, such as a pulse oximeter to monitor your blood oxygen level.