Ky. doctors closely watching new omicron subvariant

Published: Jan. 6, 2023 at 5:11 PM CST
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LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WAVE) - Kentucky is monitoring a new strain of omicron taking over in the United States.

However, questions remain on when omicron sub-variant: XBB.1.5. will reach Kentucky and how dangerous it is compared to previous variants.

”We don’t know a lot about it, other than it is even more contagious than the last omicron variant, which means its one of the most contagious viruses in the history of planet Earth,” Governor Andy Beshear said at his Team Kentucky briefing on Thursday.

The COVID sub-variant is product of two different BA sub variants strains added together: BA.2.10.1 and BA.2.75.

Louisville’s doctors suspect the new XBB variant cases will show up locally soon, if they haven’t already.

The most recent state case map shows Jefferson County remains in the low risk green zone.

UofL Health says as of Jan. 5, they have 48 patients across their hospitals have tested positive for COVID-19. Eight of those patients are in the ICU and three are on ventilators.

The organization said on Jan. 3, they had 52 patients in the hospital with COVID, eight of them were in the ICU and two were on ventilators.

For context, on Dec. 23, UofL had 41 patients in the hospital with COVID, five of them were in the ICU and two were on ventilators.

While COVID hospitalizations and cases are down in Kentucky, the CDC reports less than 12% of Kentuckians five years and older have received the latest booster.

”I would just encourage people to be careful,” Dr. Karan Shah, Vice President of Physician Integration at Baptist Health Louisville said. “I think we are learning and we will know more as we go along.”

Experts agree getting a booster shot with the bivalent vaccines will do the best job protecting your immune system against the newer sub-variant.

Dr. Kris Bryant of Norton Children’s Hospital said symptoms of the new variant mirror flu-like symptoms.

“So fever, cough, shortness of breath, all of those would be expected with this new variant,” Dr. Kris Bryant of Norton Children’s Hospital said.

“Vaccination does not prevent you from getting it, it just will hopefully prevent the number of hospitalizations and deaths that we see,” Dr Mark Burns, UofL Health Infectious Disease Specialist said. “The mutations that are there make it more contagious, but at the same time it also appears to be slightly less severe.”

Oral antivirals, such as Paxlovid. still work very well against this new COVID strain. In addition to getting your booster, doctors encourage wear your mask in crowded spaces and wash your hands.