Covid ‘Kraken’ variant is ripping through the UK – symptoms

This Morning: Dr Zoe talks about new Covid variant XBB1.5

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“This variant is called the XBB.1.5,” Dr Zoe said on Wednesday, January 4, 2023. Appearing on ITV’s This Morning, Dr Zoe explained it is “an offshoot from the Omicron XBB. There are some concerns about it”, she cautioned. “It’s become quite prevalent.”

Already in over 70 countries, including the US and UK, the Covid variant has “concerning” mutations.

Dr Zoe elaborated: “Some of the mutations mean that it’s more likely to be able to evade immunity, from previous infections and from immunisation.”

The doctor added that XBB.1.5 is “more likely” to be able to evade immunity granted by vaccinations.

However, while the variant is “one to watch”, especially as it gains traction in the UK, there is little to suggest that it could lead to more severe illness.

Dr Zoe stated you aren’t “necessarily more likely to be hospitalised if you get this variant”.

Nicknamed the “Kraken” variant, data from the Wellcome Sanger Institute show that this strain represents half of all the recorded cases in Wirral last week.

The variant has also been recorded in:

  • Telford and Wrekin, Shropshire
  • Tower Hamlets, London
  • Cornwall
  • Stoke-on-Trent.

Scientists are reportedly concerned about Kraken’s mutations, such as F486P and S486P.

These mutations are thought to improve its transmissibility, which could mean it has the potential to become the most dominant strain in the UK.

Professor Lawrence Young, a virologist, said the emergence of this strain should be a “wake-up call”.

Epidemiologist Professor Paul Hunter said the increase in Kraken is “very worrying”.

Professor Hunter fears that its “dramatic growth advantage” could “drive a new wave of infections”.

The latest government data on Covid demonstrates that the number of Covid infections, hospitalisations, and deaths were creeping up before the Christmas break.

New figures from the government are yet to be released, which will reveal the UK’s current Covid status.

Dr Simon Clarke, a microbiologist, is not worried, as the strain doesn’t seem to be causing more serious disease.

Covid symptoms

Professor of molecular medicine at the University of Kent, Martin Michaelis, said “there is no indication” that the symptoms of Kraken differ from other Omicron sub-variants.

The NHS says symptoms of a Covid infection can include:

  • A high temperature or shivering (chills) – a high temperature means you feel hot to touch on your chest or back (you do not need to measure your temperature)
  • A new, continuous cough – this means coughing a lot for more than an hour, or three or more coughing episodes in 24 hours
  • A loss or change to your sense of smell or taste
  • Shortness of breath
  • Feeling tired or exhausted
  • An aching body
  • A headache
  • A sore throat
  • A blocked or runny nose
  • Loss of appetite
  • Diarrhoea
  • Feeling sick or being sick.

People experiencing Covid symptoms are advised to “stay at home” and to “avoid contact with other people” if they have a high temperature.

If, at any point, you are concerned about your symptoms of Covid, do call NHS 111.

Covid still has the capability of severe illness, especially for people who are more vulnerable to the virus.

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