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House rep concerned about new Omicron variant

Dr. Elizabeth Lauvao

Pago Pago, AMERICAN SAMOA — Rep Manavaalofa Tutuila Manase has expressed concerns over the latest data available from the World Health Organization (WHO) on the new variant which is now present in the Pacific.

He said from September to January the number of people affected by the XBB.1.5 also known as Kraken the new variant continues to increase with 40,000 worldwide that have died as a result.

“We have now opened our borders with weekly flights and given it’s now in the Pacific it will be only a matter of time before it reaches the territory which is a major concern,” he said.

Last week, the Department of Health (DoH) said it is confident that the current COVID-19 vaccines and treatments still work for all infections from Omicron variants and sub-variants, including the new XBB.1.5.

As reported earlier the DoH has already sent samples overseas for testing to determine whether this new variant is on island, according to DoH Clinical Service director Dr. Elizabeth Lauvao, in response to Samoa News questions.

There were concerns raised by members of the public regarding the XBB.1.5, a new variant of COVID-19 that is spreading across the U.S, Fiji, New Zealand, and other countries that have daily flights to neighboring Samoa, and those in close proximity to American Samoa.

Dr Lauvao referenced her responses to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) COVID-19 Data Tracker Weekly review, specifically the week ending Jan. 7, 2023.

“Regarding the variant, it’s a new year but we are still dealing with the same variant (Omicron and its sub variants).

“These variants continue to mutate.

“XBB.1.5 is a subvariant of Omicron and based on the number of cases, XBB.1.5 is spreading quickly.

“According to CDC, XBB.1.5 appeared in late November [2022] and the number of persons infected started to rise in the beginning of December 2022; CDC will continue to investigate ways in which XBB.1.5 may be different from other Omicron sub variants.

“CDC’s COVID-19 guidance remains the same about how people can best protect themselves from any serious illness (e.g. staying home when sick, COVID-19 vaccines, masking, social distancing, hand washing).”