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Dubbed “The Kraken”, a new Covid XBB.1.5 variant has been labelled the one to watch out for this year. This mutated version of Omicron XBB has accounted for around 40 percent of Covid cases in the US. Health experts suggest it might also sweep through the UK.
The Kraken Covid variant could soon become the dominant Covid strain in the UK, according to health chiefs.
The UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) reported that XBB.1.5, which made up 4.5 percent of all cases between Boxing Day and New Year’s Day, is one of two variants “most likely to predominate”.
The other variant in question is CH.1.1, nicknamed “Orthrus” after a mythical two-headed dog.
In the festive period, around 19.5 percent of Covid cases were driven by this other strain.
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Although the prevalence of XBB.1.5 is currently low, Kraken seems to be growing faster and is thought to be more transmissible than other strains in circulation.
Writing in a technical briefing, the UKHSA said: “CH.1.1 and XBB.1.5 are currently the variants most likely to predominate in the UK following BQ.1, unless further novel variants arise.
“It is plausible that XBB.1.5 will cause an increase in incidence after the current wave; however, it is currently too early to confirm this trajectory.”
Health experts and scientists are now monitoring the new sub-variant in order to determine whether it gives dominance to different symptoms.
There’s currently no official data regarding early signs of the new variant but experts think the symptom onset will be similar to other Omicron strains.
Martin Michaelis, professor of molecular medicine at the University of Kent, told FactCheck “there is no indication” that the symptoms of XBB.1.5 are different from those caused by other Omicron sub-variants.
This means you can expert cold-like symptoms, including:
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However, you might also experience more traditional signs like high temperature, new and continuous cough, and changes to taste or smell.
Covid XBB.1.5 has been labelled the “most transmissible” variant yet by the World Health Organisation (WHO).
Dr Maria Van Kerkhove, the WHO’s COVID-19 technical lead, told a press conference last week: “It is the most transmissible sub-variant that has been detected yet.
“The reason for this is the mutations that are within… this sub-variant of Omicron, allowing this virus to adhere to the cell and replicate easily.
“And we are concerned about its growth advantage, in particular in some countries in Europe and in the US in North America, particularly the northeast part of the United States where XBB.1.5 has rapidly replaced other circulating variants.
“Our concern is how transmissible it is… and the more this virus circulates, the more opportunities it will have to change.”
The good news is that Kraken appears to be just as mild as its predecessor Omicron and its other sub-variants.
The UKHSA added: “Vaccination remains our best defence against future Covid waves, so it is still as important as ever that people come forward and take up all the doses for which they are eligible as soon as possible.”
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