COVID XBB.1.5 Sub Variant: How bad is it, why is it called ‘Kraken’, etc.

That familiar old fear is back: New COVID variants, new worries.

This time, the World Health Organization is raise interest on the COVID XBB.1.5 sub-variant, saw an increase in the US towards the end of the year. ABC News reported Hospitalizations are on the rise in the Northeastern United States, with the secondary variable making up the majority of them.

Should you worry about the latest sub-variant? And why do some people call it Kraken? Here’s what to know right now:

What is the difference with the XBB.1.5 sub-variant?

According to CNBC, WHO’s COVID technical team leader, Maria Van Kerkhove, said officials are worried about the speed at which XBB.1.5 is spreading, especially in the Northeast. “It’s the most contagious sub-variant that has been detected,” she told a news conference.

Extra luck that the sub-variant raised alarm bells in late 2022 when the number of XBB.1.5 cases increased from 1% of total cases in early December to 41% in three weeks.

What are the symptoms like?

Symptoms appear to be nearly identical to previous versions of the Omicron variant that was common last winter – meaning more cold-like symptoms, like a runny nose, sore throat and stuffy nose. Fortune reports the reason is that it basically originated in Omicron last year, which also explains why symptoms that emerged early in the pandemic, like loss of taste or smell, don’t occur as often here.

USA TODAY more Symptoms may include difficulty breathing and low oxygen levels, and those require medical attention.

How to avoid catching this sub-variant?

It starts out like an old saw, but updating your vaccines and boosters is the best prevention, by Mayo Clinic among others.

In addition, wearing a well-fitting mask and avoiding close indoor spaces can reduce the risk of infection.

Can I get COVID again after getting it once?

While you’ll have some protection from COVID after contracting it, that doesn’t mean you’ll be immune to it forever. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Re-infection with COVID still occurs.

What should I do if I test positive?

If you test positive for COVID, health officials, including the CDC, say you should isolate for at least 5 days if you’re showing symptoms and don’t end the quarantine until 24 hours after your symptoms improve. If you do not have symptoms, you should isolate for 5 days and wear a mask for 10 days to avoid spreading the virus to people at high risk.

You should also contact a healthcare professional (by phone, text, etc.) if you have symptoms, in which case medications such as Paxlovid should be considered.

Why “Kraken”?

Some, especially in the Twitterverse, called XBB.1.5 the sub-variable “Kraken”. The name comes from biology professor T. Ryan Gregory of the University of Guelph in Canada, according to Fortune.

Gregory wanted to give this sub-variant a name with more power than XBB.1.5 or even Omicron to better communicate information to the public and chose the name of a sea monster from Norse mythology. And apparently, he has other mythical creatures, like Chiron and Basilisk.

Whatever the reason, it went viral on social media with the hashtag #Kraken.


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