COVID hospitalizations in the US have increased by 16.1% in the past week as a new “escaped” strain of the virus has continued to spread across the country.
The new variant is officially called “XBB.1.5”, but you can simply call it ‘Kraken’, a name given by Canadian biologist Dr. Ryan Grefory. According to the World Health Organization, it’s the most contagious COVID variant yet.
We still don’t know exactly the evolutionary process of the new strain, but WHO’s technical advisory group is currently drawing up a risk assessment of the new mutant variant. Scientists became concerned about Kraken at the end of last year as the number of XBB increased. 1.5 cases in the US spiked from 1% of all cases at the beginning of December to 41% just three weeks later.
The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released a statement this week saying Kraken cases accounted for almost 75% of all infections in regions 1 and 2, which include Maine, Connecticut, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Vermont, Rhode Island, New York, Puerto Rico, New Jersey, and the US Virgin Islands.
A new Kraken COVID variant is causing concern as it binds tightly upon contact with a cell, WHO officials added, which means the virus is able to replicate easily in a host.
Dr. Raj Rajnarayanan, associate professor and assistant dean of research at the New York Institute of Technology, said that the best way to fight against mutations is to get a booster vaccination.
What are the symptoms of the new variant?