New Jersey health officials are bracing for the arrival of a new COVID-19 variant that appears to be more easily transmitted and evades many of the existing vaccine protections.

Scientists are still learning about this latest strain, identified as XBB, but it appears to combine elements of multiple strains, including pieces of the omicron variant.

Its highly transmissible nature is of particular concern as New Jersey residents start to close up their houses and spend more time indoors.

XBB has been detected in large numbers of cases in Singapore and Bangladesh and has appeared in some European countries.

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The U.S. Center for Disease Control and Prevention has confirmed a small number of cases in the United States, with the first appearing in August.

As of now, no cases have been detected in New Jersey.

The BA.5 variant remains the dominant strain in the Garden State, accounting for 81.5% of all new cases in the last four weeks.

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New Jersey's COVID dashboard reports 1,605 new COVID cases and five deaths. The state's current rate of transmission is .96, indicating the virus is not actively spreading.

On Thursday, Gov. Phil Murphy announced the state was ready to provide update COVID vaccine boosters to children between 5 and 17 years old. These shots are with the Pfizer and Moderna bivalent vaccine that has specific elements targeting the BA.5 and BA.4 variants.

Researchers are not sure if these current boosters will provide protection against XBB.

An early study from Peking University shows XBB has been able to hide from antibody protections more efficiently than any of the other emerging variants.

However, similar to most of the known variants, XBB does not appear to cause more severe illness in those infected.

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