Is the Omicron XBB variant 5X more virulent than the Delta variant of the COVID-19 coronavirus?!
Take a look at the viral claim, and find out what the facts really are!
Claim : Omicron XBB Is 5X More Virulent Than Delta Variant!
This message has gone viral on WhatsApp, Twitter and Facebook particularly in India, claiming that the Omicron XBB variant is 5X more virulent than the Delta variant of the COVID-19 coronavirus!
Note : It’s rather long, so please feel free to skip to the next section for the facts!
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Truth : Omicron XBB Variant Advice From Singapore Is Fake News!
This is yet another example of FAKE NEWS circulating on WhatsApp and social media, and here are the reasons why…
Fact #1 : XBB Is An Omicron Subvariant
First, let me just clarify a common misconception. XBB is technically not a COVID-19 variant. It is a subvariant of the Omicron variant.
As per WHO definition, XBB is a recombinant subvariant of BA.2.10.1 and BA.2.75 sublineages of the Omicron variant. In other words – XBB is a mix of the BA.2.10.1 and BA.2.75 subvariants of Omicron.
Fact #2 : Omicron XBB Is Detected Like Any Other COVID-19 Variant
The viral message falsely claims that XBB is not easily detected.
XBB is nothing more than a subvariant of Omicron. It is just as easily detected by the same PCR or RTK tests as the original Omicron variant.
Fact #3 : Omicron XBB Symptoms Similar To Other Omicron Variants
The viral message falsely claims that XBB infections do not present with cough or fever.
XBB is just one of the many Omicron subvariants that include BA.5, BA.2.75, BJ.1, and BA.4.6. While they have changes to their spike protein, they have similar symptoms to the Omicron variant.
They are just different versions of the Omicron variant, and present with common symptoms like cough, fever, sore throat, cold, body aches.
Fact #4 : Omicron XBB Is Not 5X More Virulent Than Delta Variant
The viral message falsely claims that XBB is 5X more virulent than the Delta variant.
On 27 October 2022, the WHO Technical Advisory Group on SARS-CoV-2 Virus Evolution (TAG-VE) reported that there is no “substantial differences in disease severity for XBB infections”.
In other words – XBB infections produce similarly mild disease to Omicron. That is not surprising, because XBB is after all an Omicron subvariant.
The Delta variant (B.1.617.2), which caused havoc in mid 2021, causes more severe disease than any other COVID-19 variants, particularly in people who were not vaccinated.
An April 2022 study published in Nature showed that Omicron variant infections had 2X to 5X fewer fatalities than Delta variant infections.
Read more : Fact Check : Singapore Advice On Omicron XBB?!
Fact #5 : Omicron XBB Does Not Skip The Nasopharynx
This COVID-19 variant skips the nasopharynx and attacks the lungs directly is an old hoax that keeps getting rehashed for the variant of the day.
You may recall when Delta variant was the hot topic, people claimed that this is the variant that skips the nasopharynx and infects the lungs directly.
The SARS-CoV-2 virus is immobile, and travels through droplets and aerosols that we breathe in. It is not a homing missile that goes in search of a particular target.
As the air we breathe passes through the nasopharynx before it reaches the lungs, that is where most of the virus ends up, and that is why we swab the nasopharynx to detect COVID-19.
Fact #6 : Nasal / Nasopharyngeal Swab Test Will Still Pick Up XBB
The false claim that nasal / nasopharyngeal swab tests will turn up negative also keeps getting rehashed for the variant of the day.
People too earlier claimed that the nasal / nasopharyngeal swab tests would turn up negative for the Delta variant. It was nonsense then, it’s nonsense today.
Nasal or better still, nasopharyngeal swab, to detect the presence of the SARS-CoV-2 virus still works for the XBB subvariant.
Fact #7 : Indian Ministry of Health Call This Fake News
As of November 2022, Omicron XBB accounts for 65.6% of COVID-19 cases in India, where this viral message has recently gone viral.
This led to the Indian Ministry of Health posting an official notice, calling it fake and misleading.
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