XBB.1.16, also referred to as “arcturus,” is a new COVID-19 variant that’s infecting people across the globe. Like BA.5 and BQ.1 from 2022, it’s also an omicron subvariant. It’s labeled by the World Health Organization as a “variant under monitoring,” according to Jodie Guest, professor of epidemiology at Emory University’s Rollins School of Public Health in Atlanta. (For reference, there are two levels of variants above this classification — variants of interest and variants of concern.)
“The thing we’re watching the most is how fast this is doubling in countries that it’s in,” Guest told HuffPost. It’s currently being tracked in 29 countries, including the United States.
“In the United States, we’ve started to notice it increasing over the last month,” said Matthew Binnicker, the director of clinical virology at Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota. “Four weeks ago, [XBB.1.16] represented about 1% of all the sequenced cases, the following week it increased to a little over 2%.” As of last week, it represented a little more than 7% of cases in the U.S. nationwide — though certain parts of the country are being hit with this variant harder than others.