COVID XBB.1.5 variant most contagious yet, doctors say

The coronavirus XBB.1.5 variant is spreading quickly across the United States. Health officials warn it's the most contagious yet.

The COVID XBB.1.5 variant accounts for more than 27% of cases in the U.S. Medical experts are saying what they've been saying along – your best protection is a shot.

At Infinity Pharmacy on Milwaukee's south side, Owner and Pharmacist Marwa Bakr has been at the forefront in the fight against COVID-19.

"We want to make it easy for everyone to get vaccinated," said Bakr.

More than 16,000 shots have been administered at Infinity Pharmacy, but things have slowed down despite growing new cases.

"The demand on the new booster is very low," said Bakr.

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Medical experts say the bivalent booster is the best protection against the COVID XBB.1.5 variant.

"If you haven’t gotten the bivalent booster yet, it is time to do so," said Dr. Ben Weston, Milwaukee County chief health policy advisor.

Dr. Weston said the new variant is highly transmissible, accounting for about 2% of COVID cases in December in the U.S., shooting up to more than 27% of COVID cases in January.

"The sort of jump in just 7 weeks isn’t something we’ve seen much before," said Dr. Weston.

He says most people experience cold and flu-like symptoms, similar to previous omicron strains. The XBB.1.5 variant has been identified in more than 25 other countries.

"It’s so contagious, so transmissible, I would imagine this would be the dominant variant worldwide in a very short time," said Dr. Weston. "It’s a very contagious, very aggressive variant."

The XBB.1.5 variant is dominating the northeast right now, accounting for more than 70% of cases there.

Dr. Weston said aside from the bivalent booster, people should wear a mask in very crowded spaces, especially if you're traveling.