Take a look at the viral news on the new Omicron XBB variant from Singapore, and find out what the facts really are!
Claim : Omicron XBB Variant News From Singapore!
This message, purportedly news on the new Omicron XBB variant from Singapore, has gone viral on WhatsApp, and on social media.
It’s rather long, so feel free to skip to the next section for the facts!
Everyone is advised to wear a mask because the new COVID-Omicron XBB variant coronavirus is different, deadly and not easily detected properly:-
Symptoms of the novel COVID-Omicron XBB virus are as follows:-
Truth : Omicron XBB Variant Advice From Singapore Is Fake News!
This is yet another example of FAKE NEWS circulating on WhatsApp, 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. In other words – XBB is a mix of the BA.2.10.1 and BA.2.75 subvariants.
Fact #2 : 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 : 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 : XBB Is Not 5X More Toxic Than Delta Variant
The term “toxic” is nonsensical when it comes to viruses, and tells us that the writer does not understand basic science, never mind virology.
He/she probably meant “virulent” or “virulence”, which refers to the virus’ ability to cause damage to its host. In any case, that is a false claim.
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.
Fact #5 : 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 : XBB Wave Is Not Deadlier Than First COVID-19 Wave
While the XBB wave is driving up cases in Singapore, the Ministry of Health there confirmed that the number of severe cases from XBB remained low:
This is very likely due to the resilience built up through vaccination and previous waves of infection. We are monitoring the trajectory closely.
More importantly, there is also no evidence of XBB causing more severe illness. So far, the large majority of patients continue to report mild symptoms such as sore throat or slight fever, especially if they have been vaccinated.
On October 11, for example, Singapore recorded over 11,000 new cases, but only 11 of them needed to be treated in the ICU, and only 50 needed oxygen supplementation.
That was much lower than the 171 ICU cases and 308 cases requiring oxygen supplementation at the peak of the Delta wave, and 54 ICU cases and 232 cases requiring oxygen supplementation at the peak of the Omicron wave.
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Dr. Adrian Wong has been writing about tech and science since 1997, even publishing a book with Prentice Hall called Breaking Through The BIOS Barrier (ISBN 978-0131455368) while in medical school.
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