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New COVID variant behind surge in cases

A new strain of the virus is quickly spreading across the country and here in our area, creating a new wave of cases.

STROUD TOWNSHIP, PA — Doctors and nurses with St. Luke's University Health Network in Monroe County are seeing an increase in coronavirus hospitalizations. A new variant is being called the most contagious version yet.

"That's this XBB1.1, and this is far more transmissible than prior strains of COVID-19," said Dr. Jeffrey Jahre, the senior vice president of medical and academic affairs at St. Luke's.

He says we are in a quad-demic, meaning people who are sick have either the coronavirus, the flu, RSV, known as respiratory syncytial virus, or the common cold.

That's why Dr. Jahre says it's important to remember to test yourself if you feel sick because the symptoms for this strain are similar to a common cold.

"It starts off with frequently they're sick with a very bad sore throat. They have marked fatigue and muscle aches," Dr. Jahre said. "They have runny noses and frequent cough. These are the same symptoms that you can also see in people who have influenza, who have also been immunized, as well as RSV and the common cold. So you can't always tell the difference."

Dr. Jahre says almost all the people that are being hospitalized are unvaccinated. He's encouraging those who haven't gotten vaccinated to at least the initial two-shot series of the coronavirus shot, plus a booster.

"They may not be efficient in preventing infection, but they are highly efficient in preventing the worse consequences of the disease, particularly in the most vulnerable, and what we're talking about there in terms of worst consequences is clearly hospitalizations and death," said Dr. Jahre.

Dr. Jahre believes holiday travel, social gatherings, and colder weather are the reasons so many are sick.

 Watch more stories about the coronavirus pandemic on WNEP’s YouTube page.  

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