February 3, 2023

Athens News

News in English from Greece

What is the “Kraken”: ECDC on the new variant of Covid – how dangerous is it

Bad news from the disease control agency EU about a new mutation of Covid, the so-called XBB.1.5, which received the sonorous name “Kraken”, which is currently … “covered” America and worries epidemiologists.

The XBB.1.5 subspecies is spreading rapidly, probably because it has some advantages over the currently dominant Omicron strains. Moreover, it has already been discovered in Spain…

“There is a possibility that this variant will have an increasing impact on the number of cases of COVID-19 in the EU, but not within the next month, as this variant is currently being detected in the EU at a very low level,” notes the European Center for Prevention and Control diseases (ECDC) in their recent evaluation of the XBB.1.5 mutation.

On Wednesday, WHO COVID-19 technical lead Maria van Kerkawe said the health agency was concerned about how quickly the substrain is crowding out other options. In the US, from 4% of cases identified with XBB.1.5 at the start, the figure jumped to 41% within weeks, according to the White House’s COVID-19 response coordinator.

Why is XBB.1.5 spreading so fast? The ECDC writes that the increase in spread rate is likely due to XBB.1.5’s ability to evade immune system antibodies present from previous infections or vaccinations. It also has a mutation in the spike protein – the part of the virus that binds to host cells – that may offer some benefit.

For now, this variant, while alarming in Europe, is not yet of major concern according to ECDC, although it has been identified in Denmark, France, Austria, the Netherlands, Germany, Italy, Spain, Sweden, Iceland, Belgium, the Czech Republic , Portugal, Spain, Sweden, Iceland, Belgium and Ireland. Data from the US suggests that XBB.1.5 is spreading aggressively, with cases doubling every nine days.

The main danger is that the potential outbreak will coincide with an already challenging flu and respiratory syncytial virus season, putting additional strain on hospitals. In Belgium, health authorities have declared an influenza epidemic as cases rise and are expected to peak in three to four weeks.

However, just because the US is experiencing an explosive growth of a substrain does not necessarily mean that Europe will soon be at the epicenter of the storm. “Significant differences in variant circulation have been observed between North America and Europe on several occasions during the pandemic,” writes ECDC.

However, tourists from the United States, in contrast to tourists from China are not checkedwhich confirms the political motivation of the measures introduced.

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