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"Kraken": The New Variant of the Coronavirus. Why is it Causing Concern?

The Recent Variant of the Coronavirus Causes Concern Due to its Particular Mutation. Learn About the Features of "Kraken".

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LatinAmerican Post | David Rivadeneira Soto

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Leer en español: “Kraken” la nueva variante del coronavirus ¿Por qué está causando preocupación?

Since the beginning of the pandemic, at the end of 2019, we have witnessed, through the monitoring of the coronavirus, its evolution to resist the attacks of immunity, either achieved by contagion or in the fight waged by vaccines. At the beginning of December, the appearance of what is actually, to be more exact, a new subvariant, as epidemiologists call it, of the last known strain of the SARS-CoV-2 virus: the omicron. In simpler words, it could be exemplified as if it were a great-grandson of the latter.

According to what the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) report, and collected in Nature, this subvariant first called XBB.1.5 "comprises 28% of cases nationwide and more than 70% in the Northeast in the United States. Without losing sight of the precautions that must be followed, it is necessary to remember that it is part of the nature of viruses to be mutating to survive the immune systems of humans, as warned by the World Health Organization (WHO), and the probabilities increase as the contagion grows.

What makes the Kraken subvariant different?

This variant of the omicron has been produced after various mutations; It is a derivation of the XBB and in its analysis a high contagion capacity has been discovered in comparison with its previous versions before it evolved. Peking University immunologist Yunlong Cao has been analyzing this sublineage in the laboratories of the prestigious educational institution. As he stated in an article in the scientific journal Nature, the different mutations have reduced the strength of the antibodies, both those produced by the infection itself and those achieved by vaccination.

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In simple terms, what they have managed to establish in the study of this recent variant of the omicron strain is that its transmission power is greater. According to the projections of the World Health Organization (WHO), this new mutation, XBB 1.5 or Kraken, as they have named it, will be the one that prevails in infections in the world, given the observation of its exponential growth in the United States, where half of the infection cases from December to the present have been of this mutation.

The symptoms of Kraken and what it owes its name

However, despite having received the name of the sea monster from Scandinavian mythology, Kraken, which endows this subvariant with a connotation that can cause fear just by pronouncing the name, its name is the product of the intention of making it easier recognition. That is, it is done to make the name easier for the public, the media, and even the scientists and health personnel themselves. Ryan Gregory, a biology professor at the University of Guelph, in Ontario, Canada, was the one who proposed the name to make it easier to remember, according to the newspaper El País.

Regarding the symptoms of the Kraken variant, no major difference is observed in relation to previous mutations. Andrew Pekosz, a virologist at Johns Hopkins University, as recorded by the huffingtonpost, explains that the symptoms with which he presents "are very similar" to those of previous COVID-19 infections. Therefore, it is easy to identify a possible contagion if there is fever, cough, fatigue, runny nose, nasal congestion, sore throat, headache, joint pain, loss of taste and smell. Additionally, despite the high contagion rate, the Kraken sub-variant has not been shown to have more detrimental effects than previous versions. Meanwhile, the recommendations continue to be to control interactions and have vaccine boosters, especially in those over 60 years of age and in people who have a history of previous diseases that are aggravated by COVID-19.

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