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There's a new COVID variant in the US; Here's what you need to know

Doctors at Norton Healthcare said XBB.1.5, a subvariant of Omicron, appears to be more transmissible than others.

LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Doctors at Norton Healthcare are urging vaccination as they learn more about yet another COVID-19 variant.

“While COVID can be a mild disease for many people, there are still individuals who are at risk for severe COVID. People who have underlying health conditions, people who are older," Dr. Kristina Bryant said. 

The new variant has been dubbed XBB.1.5 and is a subvariant of the original Omicron variant. 

According to the World Health Organization, this variant is more transmissible than other variants, however health officials say data doesn't appear to show an increase in the severity of the illness.

Bryant said XBB.1.5 has been spreading rapidly over the last six weeks, making up a greater and greater proportion of new cases. She said right now it makes up about 27% of new cases nationwide. 

She said that's why Norton Healthcare is continuing to urge people to get their vaccines and the bivalent booster.

"The bivalent vaccines can protect you against the most severe outcomes of COVID, and they’re important even for people who have had natural COVID in the past," she said. "The vaccines offer additional protection.”

Bryant said Norton has about 57 patients hospitalized with COVID, though some are hospitalized for other reasons and just happen to have COVID. 

It's unclear if the new variant has been detected in Louisville, health officials say testing for specific variants usually takes a few weeks to develop.

While monoclonal antibody treatments have been phased out, Dr. Paul Schulz said other treatments are still helping. 

“In terms of impact on society, the thing that would probably be the biggest is if one of the variants became resistant to these oral treatments that are probably keeping people out of the hospital," he said. 

Bryant said regardless if you've had both doses of the COVID-19 vaccine and both boosters, you should still get a bivalent booster. 

Right now, Jefferson County is in the "low" category for COVID transmission, according to the CDC

You can find more about scheduling a booster here

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