Amid ever-growing concerns over the massive Covid surge in China and three cases of the Omicron BF.7 variant being found in India, claims are being made on social media regarding Covid Omicron XBB variant being five times more dangerous and having higher mortality rate than the Delta variant that wreaked havoc across the world, including India.
Owing to the growing scare, the Health Ministry took on their Twitter handle to burst the myth and labeled it as fake. The Health Ministry wrote that the message regarding the XBB variant, circulating in Whatsapp groups, is fake and misleading. The viral message also claims that the Omicron XBB variant is so dangerous that it can not be detected through RT-PCR test and also has no peculiar symptoms.
XBB is a recombinant of two Omicron sub-variants, BA.2.10.1 and BA.2.75. Several studies have shown that XBB is more immune evasive, that is, it has the ability to circumvent immunity from vaccination-induced infection and has a growth advantage over other currently circulating variants of Omicron.
However, the claims made in the social media posts and messages are baseless as experts have described the XBB, which itself is a sub-variant, as less lethal than Delta. XBB is a recombinant of BA.2.10.1 and BA.2.27 sub-lineages. Also, the XBB variant is not new and was first reported on August 13 this year.
Unlike the Delta variant that went deep into the lungs and led to a fall in oxygen saturation, Omicron variants are known to affect the upper respiratory tract — the nostrils, nasal cavity, mouth, and throat. The virus can go into the lungs in some cases, but it is not the location of choice for the variant.