COVID-19 ‘Kraken’ subvariant spreading quickly in U.S.

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Three years into the pandemic, the COVID-19 subvariant known as XBB.1.5 and nicknamed “Kraken” is spreading quickly in the United States, according to a Kaiser Permanente news release. 

The health care company, which operates 39 hospitals and more than 700 medical offices in the Pacific Northwest, California and other parts of the U.S., said this week that COVID cases are on the rise throughout the nation. 

According to the Centers for Disease Control, the XBB.1.5 “Kraken” subvariant accounts for 72% of new cases in the Northeast and 27.6% of cases across the U.S.

“XBB.1.5 is the most transmissible Omicron subvariant detected yet, but it does not appear to cause more severe illness than other variants,” said Dr. Katie Sharff, chief of infectious disease for Kaiser Permanente in Portland. “This new mutation is a descendant of prior Omicron variants, so its symptoms are similar. People can anticipate symptoms like runny nose, sore throat, cough and congestion, and are less likely to feel seriously ill – especially if they are vaccinated or have preexisting immunity from previously having COVID.”

Sharff said that, as influenza and RSV start to decline, we are starting to see a rise in cases of COVID-19. 

“The public can prepare by knowing the symptoms, continuing to practice healthy behaviors, and make sure they are up to date on COVID-19 vaccinations, especially if they are elderly or have underlying medical conditions. Despite the rise in COVID-19 cases, due to population level immunity, this is a far brighter situation than what we observed one year ago,” the Kaiser Permanente news release stated.