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New COVID-19 subvariant rising across the country. Here’s what we know

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ORLANDO, Fla. – The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is tracking a new COVID-19 subvariant that is spreading rapidly across the country.

XBB 1.5 is a subvariant of the omicron variant. The CDC said it is now estimated to account for about 40% of COVID-19 cases in the U.S. as of Dec. 31, according to the agency’s data tracker.

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Dr. Barbara Mahon, director of the CDC’s proposed Coronavirus and Other Respiratory Viruses Division, told CBS News that the agency expects the strain to dominate the Northeast as it spreads across the country.

It’s not exactly known where the subvariant came from, except that it is a recombinant of previous subvariants that seems to bind better to cells, allowing for greater spread.

“There’s no suggestion at this point that XBB.1.5 is more severe. But I think it is a really good time for people to do the things that we have been saying for quite a while are the best ways to protect themselves,” Mahon told CBS News.

The CDC’s COVID-19 Data Tracker shows XBB 1.5 accounts for an estimated 19% of cases in the southeastern United States. However, it accounts for over 70% of the cases in the Northeast. Puerto Rico is also seeing higher cases linked to XBB 1.5 as well.

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