SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) – A new variant of COVID-19 is quickly spreading across the U.S. While it’s not leading to more hospitalizations or deaths, health care providers are concerned about just how fast the new XXB.1.5 variant is spreading.
“It used to be we would see the changes on the coast and then four to six weeks later we would see the same virus changes in the Midwest. This one appears to have made all of that ground in about two weeks,” Dr. Jeremy Cauwels, the Chief Physician at Sanford Health said.
And now that XXB.1.5 is here, Dr. Cauwels says it’s already spreading quickly at the local level too.
“It used to be wait five or six days to find out if you have symptoms, this seems to be one to two days later you find out you have symptoms,” Dr. Cauwels said.
The symptoms are typical COVID indicators like fever, respiratory concerns and a dry cough. Dr. Cauwels says one common symptom is now changing.
“One of the things that’s sort of gone away is the loss of taste or smell. So we don’t see that as often as we used to. The more cold and flu like symptoms are very very prominent,” Dr. Cauwels said.
Sanford Health has consistently seen about 50 people hospitalized every day due to covid; that hasn’t changed with the arrival of XBB.1.5.
“The good news is this doesn’t seem to be causing more hospitalizations and it doesn’t appear to be causing more deaths. The bad news is, we do see an increase in the overall number of infections,” Dr. Cauwels said.
Dr. Cauwels says this new variant isn’t cause for panic, but a good reminder to make sure your COVID-19 vaccines are up to date.
“The vaccine still does its job to prevent hospitalizations and death, which is what the vaccine was supposed to do anyway, so we’re still recommending that and we have therapies, especially pills now that we can give people if they’ve gotten infected, so it’s still a really good time to get tested, especially if you have a reason your health isn’t perfect,” Dr. Cauwels said.
Dr. Cauwels says he believes covid is now endemic and is something we will deal with every season moving forward, with that we will continue to see new variants that can be more or less contagious or severe.