According to the latest estimates from the CDC, the Omicron HV.1 variant has surged to dominance in the United States, accounting for a quarter of all COVID-19 infections and particularly prevalent in the mid-Atlantic region. This development coincides with the rollout of a newly formulated COVID-19 vaccine. However, only a small percentage of eligible adults and children have received the updated vaccine, raising concerns about potential future surges in hospitalizations.
Despite its rapid spread, the HV.1 variant appears to be less severe and doesn’t seem to escape immunity from the updated COVID-19 vaccines. Experts, including William Schaffner, MD, from Vanderbilt University School of Medicine, have emphasized that the existing vaccines are expected to offer substantial protection against severe disease caused by HV.1 and other related strains.
To protect yourself against HV.1 and other variants, vaccination remains a crucial defense. The CDC recommends the updated vaccine for those over 65, immunocompromised individuals, and those with underlying health conditions. Additionally, wearing well-fitting face masks, testing for COVID-19 when experiencing symptoms, and staying home when unwell are effective measures to slow the spread.
It’s worth noting that other respiratory illnesses, such as influenza and RSV, are also starting to circulate as we enter the colder months. Vaccines for these conditions are available, and health experts advise getting vaccinated to reduce the burden on healthcare systems.
The landscape of COVID-19 variants continues to evolve, with HV.1 overtaking previous variants like EG.5 and FL.1.5.1. Virologists remain vigilant, monitoring for variants that may pose greater risks or challenges to immunity. While variants like BA.2.86 and JN.1 have garnered scientific interest, the current focus remains on the XBB family, targeted by the updated COVID-19 vaccine, which comprises 99% of circulating variants.
As the situation evolves, staying informed and following public health guidelines will be crucial in navigating the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.