A new Covid XBB.1.5 variant, dubbed “The Kraken”, is now considered “the most transmissible sub-variant that has been detected yet”, according to the World Health Organisation (WHO). With some cases being recorded in the UK, here are the symptoms to be aware of.
XBB.1.5 is another sub-variant of the globally dominant Omicron Covid variant.
This new strain evolved from XBB, which began circulating in the UK in September 2022.
“The Kraken” is causing some concern in the US, where it seems to be spreading rapidly, but cases have been also recorded in the UK.
What’s worse, the Covid variant has been labelled the “most transmissible” sub-variant yet.
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Dr Maria Van Kerkhove, the WHO’s COVID-19 technical lead, told a press conference on Wednesday: “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.”
Fortunately, XBB.1.5 appears to be just as mild as its predecessor Omicron and its other variants.
Dr Van Kerkhove said there was currently no evidence the variant caused more severe illness but added the more the new strain circulated, the more likely it would change.
What are the symptoms of XBB.1.5?
“The Kraken” symptoms are thought to be similar to previous Omicron strains, but it’s still too early to confirm this.
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.
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Omicron is mostly characterised by cold-like symptoms, with signs like cough and loss of smell being less prevalent.
According to the Zoe Covid Study App, which keeps a track of prevalent Covid symptoms through their app users, the current “top” symptoms include:
- Sore throat
- Runny nose
- Blocked nose
- Cough without phlegm
- Cough with phlegm
- Hoarse voice
- Muscle aches and pains
- Altered sense of smell.
Furthermore, the NHS states that Omicron symptoms can also include high temperature or shivering, new, continuous cough, change to taste or smell, tiredness and gastric symptoms.
Could Covid XBB.1.5 cause a surge in the UK cases?
While there are already some reports of the strain in the UK, nothing is yet certain.
According to figures for the week ending on Saturday 17 December from the Sanger Institute in Cambridge, one in 25 Covid cases in the UK was triggered by XBB.1.5.
However, the data was based on just nine samples, so a larger scale data set is needed to get a better picture.
Professor Paul Hunter from the University of East Anglia, said: “The balance of probabilities is that XBB.1.5 will trigger a wave here later this month, but we can’t be sure.”