By now, we all know the coronavirus has a tendency to morph as it spreads, creating different strains and variants along the way – with differing symptoms and varying infection rates. We’ve had the dreaded Omicron XE, the Centaurus and now, experts are weighing in on the ‘XBB’ Covid-19 variation, warning that sensationalist news reports (which have referred to it as the ‘nightmare’ strain) are ‘irresponsible’.

While the new XBB variant, which is making its way through Southeast Asia, has seen case numbers double in a day in the likes of Singapore, those in the medical field are saying it isn’t anything especially new, although it does appear to be “immune evasive” against some vaccines. The World Health Organisation (WHO) issued a statement on Wednesday saying the XBB variant has been detected in 26 countries in total, but did not say specifically which ones. However, we do know that a small number of cases have already been observed in England.

“[Referring to it as the ‘nightmare’ strain] is irresponsible reporting because it’s impossible to know what all these variants mean,” UC Berkeley infectious disease expert, John Swartzberg, told the San Francisco Chronicle this week.

“We are seeing a slew of new variants that are using a similar approach to survive — they are finding ways to evade the way we get immunity from vaccines and previous infection with changes on the spike protein,” he added. “XBB is no different from the others.”

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