Highly contagious omicron subvariant expected to take hold in Colorado

DENVER (KDVR) — Colorado health officials are preparing as the omicron XBB.1.5 subvariant of COVID is coming to Colorado. Doctors say it may be the most contagious subvariant yet.

The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment said that XBB.1.5 now accounts for about 7% of cases in our region, but is expected to take over based on what is happening in other parts of the country.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, HBB.1.5 now accounts for about 28% of cases nationwide and is the dominant subvariant in the Northeast.

“We have already seen some activity in Colorado. I suspect this will increase,” said Dr. Jaya Kumar, medical director of the Swedish Medical Center in Englewood.

She expects to see an increase in cases, but not an increase in disease severity.

“I expect cases to go up a little bit in Colorado because of this subvariant, but I don’t expect it to cause a sharp increase in hospitalizations or serious illness or deaths,” Kumar said.

Colorado saw a rocky start to the respiratory season last fall with RSV, flu and COVID cases flooding hospitals. As the new subvariant of COVID begins to make its way, some worry about the possibility of a new wave of infections.

“That’s a big concern, that we could see another spike between the expected spike after the holidays and the fact that this new variant may probably escape immunity a bit,” said Dr. Sarah Rowan, an infectious disease specialist at Denver Health.

“So for people who have had COVID, they are still at risk. The vaccine appears to be highly effective against the development of serious diseases, but vaccination rates are quite low, so we definitely encourage anyone who has not received the bivalent booster to do so as soon as possible,” Rowan said.

The virus will continue to mutate, he said, so we must continue to take precautions.


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