The newest COVID-19 variant is so contagious that even people who’ve avoided it so far are getting infected and the roughly 80% of Americans who’ve already been infected are likely to catch it again, experts say.
Essentially, everyone in the country is at risk for infection now, even if they’re super careful, up to date on vaccines, or have caught it before, said Paula Cannon, a virologist at the University of Southern California.
“It’s crazy infectious,” said Cannon, who is recovering from her first case of COVID-19, caught when she was vacationing over the holidays in her native Britain.
“All the things that have protected you for the past couple of years, I don’t think are going to protect you against this new crop of variants,” she said.
The number of severe infections and deaths remains relatively low, despite the high level of infections, she said, thanks to vaccinations – and probably – previous infections. But the lack of universal masking means that even people like her, who do wear masks, are vulnerable.
Its growth is probably due to XBB.1.5’s characteristics – it appears to bind even more tightly to receptors in the human body than its predecessors – as well as human behavior, such as traveling and not masking.
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