What you need to know about the new, fast-moving COVID subvariant XBB 1.5

A dark horse variant of COVID-19 seems to be overtaking all the others and leading to a gradual rise in cases and hospitalizations this winter.
The excitement and build up to the holidays also led to an increase in COVID-19 cases the last two weeks of December due to the fast-moving subvariant XBB 1.5.
Cases jumped from just over 20% to a little over 40% across the U.S. from the middle of December to the end.
Dr. Sanjey Gupta says this variant does not cause a stronger illness than other COVID variants.
“It'll give you a lot of flu-like symptoms. We're seeing the congestion, we are seeing the sore throats, the cough, body aches. Some people are having gastrointestinal symptoms,” he says.
Gupta says it’s similar to what doctors were seeing in 2021 but not as severe. Plus, he says the Bivalent COVID booster is protective against the variant.
However, 30 COVID-19 related deaths were reported statewide on Dec. 30 alone.
Gupta says whether you have COVID or one of the many other viruses circulating, such as RSV, it’s important to take precautions to stop the spread.
“All of these are transmitted in similar ways through the air, or sometimes it's contact on surfaces. So best thing for you is to hand wash, keep a mask on if you're in a high-risk indoor situation, and if you're sick yourself, stay home and take care of yourself,” he says.