SALT LAKE CITY — Health officials say the new variant of COVID-19, named XBB.1.5, has been found in Utah. Officials describe it as a highly contagious sub-variant of the Omicron strain. The Centers for Disease Control lists XBB.1.5 as one of the three most prevalent types of COVID-19 currently circulating in the United States.

No reason to sound the alarm

And while it is currently more prevalent than other strains, it seems to be a mild strain said Brady Bradford, a health officer at the South East Utah Health Department.

“Most people (that get it) won’t need hospitalization or any type of prescription,” Bradford told KSL NewsRadio. 

And he said that new strains of COVID-19 shouldn’t alarm anyone.

“We deal with new flu variants every single year, that’s why we get new flu shots every year,” Bradford said. “So the fact that this is happening with COVID is, I think, to be expected. We’ll hear (more) about these things and it’s important to be healthy.”

Protection from the new strain

In this instance, being healthy means making good hygiene and overall health a priority. That goes along with social distancing if you have cold or flu symptoms.

Symptoms are very similar to other COVID-19 variants, but Bradford thinks vaccines and exposure to previous variants have well-equipped the public to handle the variant. 

“It’s going to be much less than it was a year, year and a half ago when we saw Delta waves and Omicron waves — because we have so many people vaccinated, because they’ve been infected by other variants that are obviously not the same but similar, and their body can respond,” Bradford told KSL NewsRadio.

“The reports that I’ve read so far indicate that it will be amongst the faster if not the fastest spreading variant that they’ve seen so far.”

As of January 5, 2023, the Utah Department of Health and Human Services reported that 1,077,051 Utahns have been infected with COVID-19 since the state began tracking COVID numbers. More than 2,355,000 Utahns have received at least one vaccine, and 5,206 Utahns have died from complications of the virus.

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