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Health

What experts say people should know

Nature

This article is provided for informational purposes only and is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Contact a qualified health care professional before engaging in physical activity or changing your diet, medications, or lifestyle.

HV.1, a new sub-variant of COVID-19, is gaining ground across Canada.  (Photo via Getty Images)

HV.1, a new sub-variant of COVID-19, is gaining ground across Canada. (Photo via Getty Images) (SimpleImages via Getty Images)

A new sub-variant of COVID-19 called HV.1 is spreading across Canada and could be the new dominant strain this winter, and while it’s still early to tell, health experts suggest it will not be a major cause for concern.

HV.1 is a subvariant of Omicron, and it is quickly becoming the most common variant in the country, according to data from the Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC) updated on November 14. 1 accounted for 4.4 percent of reported cases, until it reached 34.2 percent in early November.

“It’s the newest Omicron on the market, it’s the one that seems to be winning the race at the moment, but it’s one of the few other respiratory viruses that are circulating,” said Angela Rasmussen, a virologist at the University of Saskatchewan. Yahoo Canada.

“This is kind of what we should perhaps expect to be our new normal for cold and flu season going forward.”

As this year’s respiratory virus season approaches, should people be concerned about this new COVID-19 subvariant? Read on to learn more about HV.1 and what Canadian experts are saying about the virus.

“We’re not going to get rid of COVID. Either way, as much as I hate to say it, I don’t see COVID going away anytime soon, potentially in our lifetime.”Angela Rasmussen

What is the HV.1 subvariant of COVID-19?

Descendant of EG. 5, or Eris, HV.1 is a derivative of the XBB lineage, according to Rasmussen.

“It’s still Omicron, it’s still a member of the XBB family. It’s not that different from a lot of the other variants that have been circulating this year.”

Earl Brown, professor emeritus of microbiology at the University of Ottawa, explains that these viruses have many mutations in their spike proteins, which they use to attach to our cells.

“Some of these variants have mutations that make them more infectious, so they penetrate cells better, they can trigger infection better and they are more competitive than other viruses,” he explains. Yahoo Canada.

“It seems like HV. 1 is sort of a ‘flavor of the month.’ … It has about 40 new mutations in addition to those 40 or 50 that are already in the Omicron group.”

There are still many unknowns about the HV.1, as it has not been studied against other variants. But Brown and Rasmussen say that while it might have a higher transmission advantage compared to other subvariants, there is no evidence that it can cause more severe disease.

HV.1 is a derivative of the Omicron XBB lineage, accounting for more than a third of COVID-19 cases reported in Canada.  (Photo via Getty Images)HV.1 is a derivative of the Omicron XBB lineage, accounting for more than a third of COVID-19 cases reported in Canada.  (Photo via Getty Images)

HV.1 is a derivative of the Omicron XBB lineage, accounting for more than a third of COVID-19 cases reported in Canada. (Photo via Getty Images) (Uma Shankar Sharma via Getty Images)

Should people be concerned about the HV.1 subvariant of COVID-19?

Although both experts agree that HV.1 should not raise concerns about causing more severe illness, they also say it is important to avoid COVID-19 altogether.

“People should try to avoid infection as much as they can,” Brown says. “Isolate and mask when they go out, that sort of thing.

“You really don’t want to get reinfected if you can avoid it.”

People who are at risk for poor outcomes from COVID-19 should be most vigilant about staying healthy. This includes the elderly, pregnant people, anyone living with a chronic illness or those who are immunocompromised.

In addition to wearing masks, ideally an N95 or KN95 respirator, people should limit the time spent in closed or crowded spaces. They should also always maximize their physical distance from people outside their household.

Canadians should stay on guard against COVID and the flu.Angela Rasmussen

Will the updated vaccine work against the HV.1 subvariant of COVID-19?

At the bare minimum, Rasmussen says, people should stay up to date on their vaccines if they want to stay protected this respiratory virus season.

“If you haven’t yet, go get your vaccinations updated. You want to have an updated flu vaccine as well as an updated COVID booster,” she says, adding that an RSV vaccine is good if available.

Since HV.1 is a derivative of XBB, Rasmussen says there should be “pretty robust cross-protection” with the boosters currently available.

“Vaccines really work,” she adds. “They can mean the difference between a few miserable days and a hospital visit.”

Even though current monovalent vaccines should work against HV.1, Rasmussen says that doesn’t mean we’ll be entirely safe from COVID-19 in the future.

“What is difficult to predict, however, is that we don’t know if another variant other than Omicron’s XBB will emerge,” she says. “If that is the case, how would we need to update the vaccines to solve this problem?

What should people know about upcoming respiratory virus seasons?

If a whole new variant of COVID-19 beyond Omicron appeared, Rasmussen says it would be a “big step backwards” from where we are.

On the other hand, she explains that there may not be more mutational combinations that would allow the virus to spread better than Omicron.

Either way, she says it wouldn’t be like going back to square one.

“It’s not like we’re going back to the beginning of 2020, where there was a whole new virus that we’d never seen before,” she says. “There will likely still be some protections afforded by previous infections and/or vaccinations.”

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