Updates to know the latest COVID symptoms, infections

The latest variant of COVID-19 is so contagious that even people who have thus far avoided it are becoming infected, and 80 percent of Americans who have already become infected will likely catch it again, experts say.

Essentially, everyone in the country is at risk of infection now, even if they’re very careful, up to date on vaccines, or have already taken it, said Paula Cannon, a virologist at the University of Southern California.

“It’s crazy contagious,” said Cannon, who is recovering from his first case of COVID-19, caught while on vacation during the holidays in his native Britain.

“All the stuff that’s been protecting you for the past couple of years, I don’t think is going to protect you from this new crop of variants,” she said.

The number of serious infections and deaths remains relatively low, despite the high level of infections, he said, thanks to vaccinations and possibly previous infections. But the lack of universal masking means that people like her, who mask up, are also vulnerable.

The latest variant, called XBB.1.5, grew exponentially during the month of December, from about 1 percent of cases nationwide to 40 percent as of December 31, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The variant probably underlies the vast majority of cases in New York and New England.

Its growth is likely due to characteristics of XBB.1.5 – it appears to bind even more closely to receptors in the human body than its predecessors – as well as human behavior, such as traveling and not disguising.

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