N.L. sees first case of new COVID-19 subvariant

A colourized electron microscope image of SARS-CoV-2, the virus behind COVID-19. Scientists are now watching the Omicron subvariant XBB.1.5, which is on the rise in multiple countries, including the U.S.  (U.S. National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases - image credit)
A colourized electron microscope image of SARS-CoV-2, the virus behind COVID-19. Scientists are now watching the Omicron subvariant XBB.1.5, which is on the rise in multiple countries, including the U.S. (U.S. National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases - image credit)
U.S. National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases
U.S. National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases

Newfoundland and Labrador has confirmed its first case of a new Omicron subvariant, which according to public health is the most transmissible strain of COVID-19 so far.

In a statement issued Thursday, a spokesperson for the Department of Health said there is no indication the strain, dubbed XBB.1.5, causes more severe illness.

"We anticipate that the spread of XBB in Canada will likely follow what has been seen in other countries," said the statement.

The new variant is on the rise in the United States, where the U.S. Center for Disease Control says it will soon represent roughly 40 per cent of new cases, and cases have been confirmed in some Canadian provinces.

According to the most recent update issued on Wednesday, 35 people were admitted to hospital and four people died in the final two weeks of 2022. The province also reported 145 confirmed COVID-19 cases from Dec. 18 to Dec. 31, although that number doesn't represent the true spread of the virus since public health has limited PCR testing.

Read more from CBC Newfoundland and Labrador