So-called ‘nightmare COVID variant’ suspected in Massachusetts by some experts

Boston – A new COVID subvariant nicknamed by some as the ‘nightmare variant’ is on the radar of doctors across Massachusetts.

The strain is so new that it isn’t showing up yet on the CDC’s variant tracker.

Dr. Shira Doron, epidemiologist with Tufts Medical Center, told Boston 25 News that there are reports that it has been detected in New York.

She believes, if that’s the case, it’s likely already here in Massachusetts. Several other local health experts agree.

XBB, a descendent of Omicron, has been ripping through Southeast Asia in recent weeks.

It’s caused cases to double in a day in several countries.

What’s concerning about XBB is that studies have shown it might be immune to current vaccines.

“It is extremely difficult to extrapolate what happens in one country from what happens in another country,” said Dr. Shira Doron with Tufts Medical Center.

Dr. Doron said it’s still unclear what, if any, impact XBB will have in Massachusetts and across the U.S.

“We were already preparing for the probability that there would be rising cases in the winter,” explained Dr. Doron. “I’m not sure that the existence of new variants changes that.”

Doctors are also paying close attention to research looking into whether XBB can evade treatment from monoclonal antibodies.

There are many unanswered questions about it at a time when hospitals across Massachusetts continue to deal with capacity and staffing challenges.

“The hospitals are just full. They’ve been full the whole time and staffing is short and people are sick,” added Dr. Doron.

State and federal health officials are still recommending that people consider getting the latest booster shot.

Only about 20 million doses of the new booster shots, produced by Pfzier and Moderna, have been administered in the United States since they were introduced at the beginning of September.

That represents a small fraction of those eligible for the shot.

If you’ve recently had COVID, the CDC guidelines recommend that you wait at least three months to get another booster shot.

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