Nicknamed “The Kraken”, the super-transmissible Covid variant XBB.1.5 may spread almost 40 percent faster than its predecessors, meaning it may soon take over the country and become the most dominant strain. Kraken symptoms have so far been reported to be similar to those of Omicron, with certain signs being especially prevalent.
There’s currently no official data regarding early signs of the new variant but experts think the symptoms will be similar to other Omicron strains.
Dr Allison Arwady, the Chicago Department of Public Health commissioner, also thinks that Kraken’s symptoms have not seen a massive change.
Arwady said in a press conference: “We’re seeing more people actually just have cold-like symptoms.”
This means that signs like runny nose, sore throat, cough and congestion can be expected to be rife.
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The doctor added: “But [people] are less likely to have those flu-like, really feeling very sick [symptoms such as] the high fevers.”
This will be especially the case for people who have had their Covid jabs, as the vaccines can protect from a serious illness.
With previous variants, The Zoe Covid Study App, which keeps a track of dominant Covid symptoms through app user reports, warned that there might be some difference in symptoms between vaccinated and non-vaccinated patients.
The reason why jabbed patients might experience different signs comes down mostly to the severity of symptoms, according to Zoe.
Dr Arwady isn’t the only one who believes that Kraken will spur on symptoms similar to previous variants.
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.
Just like Dr Arwady suggested, this means people are likely to experience cold-like symptoms.
According to Zoe, other symptoms that were prevalent with different variants this winter included sneezing, headaches, hoarse voice, muscle aches, and altered sense of smell.
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Kraken could become the dominant variant in the UK
Although the prevalence of XBB.1.5 is currently low, Kraken seems to be growing fast and is thought to be more transmissible than other strains in circulation.
Writing in a technical briefing, the UK Health Security Agency 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.”
The other variant that might drive cases is CH.1.1, dubbed “Orthrus” after a mythical two-headed dog.
Kraken is the “most transmissible” strain
While Kraken is not currently behind most of the cases in the UK, the World Health Organisation labelled the variant as the “most transmissible” strain yet.
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.”