The Rise Of The Kraken Variant: How COVID-19 Is Spreading Fear In Europe

In the United States it is responsible for more than a quarter of infections and is growing rapidly.

The impact of the Xbb.1.5 variant (nicknamed Kraken) in the USA continues to grow. According to the latest survey by the American Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (Cdc), in the last week Xbb.1.5 was responsible for 27.6% of infections and follows the sub-variant Bq.1.1 which still remains dominant with 34, 4% of infections. Sub-variant Bq.1 follows at 21.4%.

According to CDC Data

According to CDC data, the Xbb.1.5 sub-variant was already present in the US in October, but it only started to grow from the beginning of December: in the week ending December 10, it was responsible for 4.3% of infections; on Christmas Eve it was 11.5%; in the week ending January 7 at 27.6%.

In recent days, the European Center for Disease Prevention and Control said in a statement that “there is a possibility that this variant could have an effect on the growth in the number of cases of Covid-19” also in Europe, but not immediately.

The Omicron Xbb.1.5 sub-variant, renamed ‘Kraken’, has the potential to “increase Covid cases in Europe but not in January, as it is currently present only at very low levels”. This is the conclusion of the update published today by the ECDC, the European Center for Disease Prevention and Control, dedicated precisely to Xbb.1.5 “which – the infectious disease specialists of the ECDC recall – is not associated with a greater reduction in neutralization by of vaccinated and recovered compared to Xbb.1”. While the advantage of “Xbb.1.5 over Xbb.1 could be caused by an increase in intrinsic transmissibility”, they specify.

To date “there are 4,770 sequences deposited in Gisaid EpiCoV belonging to Xbb.1.5 with the mutational profile in the ‘Spike’ region Q183E, F486P and F490S – the ECDC experts recall – Most of these reports come from the United States (4,111) and from the United Kingdom (202 ) but the variant has also been detected in several other countries: Austria, Belgium, the Czech Republic, Denmark, France, Germany, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, the Netherlands, Portugal, Romania, Slovenia, Spain and Sweden”.

According to The ECDC

According to the ECDC “in the last two weeks of 2022 the prevalence of Xbb.1.5, compared to other variants, is less than 2.5% for all countries where it is possible to accurately estimate the proportions of the variant”. The US CDC has estimated a doubling time of Xbb.1.5 in 9 days, and currently the variant in the US is at 27.6%. “It is not yet clear whether the variant will become dominant in the United States in the coming weeks – warns the ECDC – Rapid growth in the United States does not necessarily mean that the variant will become dominant in Europe. This is because important differences in the circulation of variants between North America and Europe”.

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