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We are in the midst of flu season – and, our new normal – COVID season here in northeast Michigan. We’ve always thought of the winter as just the flu season, but with the emergence of COVID–19 in the past couple years, that has also become our new normal.

And, just like the flu, the COVID virus mutates every so often, which is why we have to re–up on our shots. Now, a new COVID variant is circulating, the XBB.1.5.

“Each variant is basically a sub variant of the Omicron, so we’re now dealing with just the descendants of the Omicron virus,” said Dan Maxwell, D.O., a pulmonologist at MyMichigan Medical Center.

This new variant is much more contagious than previous variants, and has been able to avoid the immune responses our bodies have developed against COVID.

“Every one of these we see gets a little bit, or a little bit more infectious faster. It develops faster, and that’s part of its way of avoiding the immune system, it gets in there and infects it very quickly,” Maxwell said.

There is not a lot of data on the new variant, other than that it is spreading quickly, and it is more infectious. However, as COVID continues to mutate, it appears to be mutating down.

“What we’re seeing is the long term effect of the vaccination programs as well as people having been infected, so called herd immunity, we’re not seeing the big spike in death rates, we’re not seeing the big spike in hospitalization rates that we saw a year ago,” Maxwell said.

Maxwell recommends you take the necessary precautions that you take when you get sick, if you are infected with the new variant.