COVID-19 Updates

All About The New COVID Variant XBB 1.16

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By Apollo 24|7, Published on- 23 March 2023, Updated on - 21 June 2023

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It has been three years since COVID-19 was first detected in India. After some relief for a few months, the number of COVID cases in the country is rising once again. This surge in cases is most likely caused by the newly detected COVID XBB 1.16 variant. Many are predicting that this new variant of coronavirus may result in the arrival of a whole new wave of the pandemic. Read on to learn more about the new COVID XBB 1.16 variant.

How Widespread is COVID XBB 1.16 Variant?

As of March 19, 2023, India witnessed 1,071 new COVID cases, marking a 27% increase in a day. This was the first time in the last 130 days that India witnessed more than a thousand new cases in a day. On the next day, 918 new cases were registered in the country increasing the daily positivity rate to more than 2%, which is significantly higher than the consistent rate of less than 1% observed over the past many weeks.

Many experts believe that this spike in COVID cases is caused by the newly detected COVID XBB 1.16 variant, which was first identified in two samples in the month of January. In February, 59 samples of this variant were found. So far in the month of March, 15 more samples have been detected. Notably, the highest number of COVID XBB 1.16 variant cases across the world has been recorded in several Indian states including Karnataka, Maharashtra, Gujarat, Telangana, Himachal Pradesh, and Odisha, along with Delhi and Puducherry.

How is the COVID XBB 1.16 Variant Different From Other COVID-Variants?

The rising number of cases of this new variant is concerning because it is spreading at an alarmingly high rate. In fact, it is being called the most contagious COVID variant so far. The available reports obtained through genome sequencing suggest that the XBB 1.16 variant has some additional spike mutations. However, this limited data does not show any substantial difference from other variants when it comes to the route of infection, mode of transmission, and clinical manifestations. 

Symptoms of COVID XBB 1.16 Variant

Currently, the COVID XBB 1.16 variant is not showing any serious clinical symptoms in most people. The common symptoms of this variant include the signs of upper respiratory illnesses like headache, sore throat, and blocked nose accompanied by fever and muscle pain. The variant can also affect your digestive system resulting in diarrhoea. These symptoms typically last for 3-4 days and resolve on their own in most cases without requiring any medical intervention. 

Prevention Measures for COVID XBB 1.16 Variant

The prevention measures for the COVID XBB 1.16 variant are the same as those for other variants. Some of the steps you can take to protect yourself include:

  • Get vaccinated. If you’ve already received two doses of the vaccine, then get a booster dose against the COVID-19 virus.
  • Avoid crowded places unless absolutely necessary.
  • Always keep your mouth and nose covered with a mask, especially while going out in public places.
  • Keep your hands sanitised at all times with a 60% alcohol-based hand sanitiser.
  • Avoid touching your nose, mouth, and face with unwashed hands. 
  • Maintain social distancing.
  • Avoid touching exposed surfaces.
  • Stay away from those who show the symptoms of a respiratory infection.
  • If you feel any symptoms, stay isolated to avoid spreading the infection.

Staying aware and cautious is the only way of reducing your risk of developing the infection. Don’t hesitate to consult with your doctor as soon as you witness the first signs. For more questions,

Consult Apollo's Expert Doctors


Medically reviewed by Dr Sonia Bhatt.


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