Although the United States government is set to declare an end to the COVID-19 public health emergency, experts are anticipating a surge in cases from this highly contagious variant. The XBB.1.16 variant is currently the second most common strain of COVID-19 in the U.S. and is circulating in more than 30 countries worldwide.
This variant of Omicron looks and behaves just like another version, XBB.1.5, which has been the dominant COVID variant in the U.S., according to Dr. Andy Pekosz of Johns Hopkins University.
The new variant appears to be more transmissible than older variants and is better at evading vaccine-induced immunity. It causes symptoms similar to other COVID-19 strains, including sore throat, runny nose, sneezing, coughing, fatigue, and muscle aches. However, it is also associated with pink eye, which can be easily transmitted among children.
While pink eye infections clear up quickly and do not have any lasting effects, it’s super contagious so it is essential to take preventive measures to avoid spreading the infection. COVID-19 vaccines are highly effective in preventing serious diseases from all Omicron variants, and wearing well-fitting face masks can also help reduce transmission.