FRESNO COUNTY, Calif. (KSEE/KGPE) – A new COVID-19 variant has been detected in Fresno County, according to the Fresno County Department of Public Health.

The new variant is a subvariant of Omicron, called XBB.1.5., and health officials say that it has a high growth rate and is quickly spreading. They add that with the current challenges associated with increased hospitalizations, the emergence of this new Omicron subvariant poses a new threat to the hospital system that is already burdened with COVID-19, RSV, the flu. The announcement also comes following the recent closure of Madera Community Hospital.

“As schools get ready to resume and individuals return to work from the holiday break, it will be important to use layers of protection. This includes getting vaccinated and boosted against COVID-19, masking in high-risk public indoor settings, and testing at home or visiting Optum serve sites.

High risk individuals who test positive for COVID-19 should contact their doctor or visit a test-to-treat site immediately to seek treatment (with free telemedicine services using Sesame Care through the California Department of Public Health).”

-Dr. Rais Vohra, Fresno County Interim Health Officer

Officials with the health department say that, like with other variants, the COVID-19 vaccines remain one of the most effective tools to reduce the spread of COVID-19. The updated (bivalent) COVID-19 booster is available for all residents, and it’s still considered protective against circulating variants.

Many symptoms of COVID-19 resemble those of a cold, flu, and allergies. Anyone experiencing congestion or a runny nose, sore throat, fever or chills, cough, difficulty breathing, fatigue, muscle or body aches, headache, new loss of taste or smell, nausea or vomiting, or diarrhea should be tested for COVID-19.

For more information on COVID-19, you can visit the public health website.