Inside the ‘Kraken’ Covid Sub-variant

First, let’s address the elephant in the room. The name, ‘The Kraken’ is a bit ridiculous.

But I do appreciate the metaphor, like the mythical sea monster was able to evade capture, XBB.1.5 is able to elude from the human immune system.

So Why Is Kraken So Contagious?

You’ve probably guessed the answer. Its mutated. There’s been an extra special change in the spike protein (Rosen, 2023).

These little pokey triangle things sticking out from the ball of the COVID-19 virus are the part of the virus that helps it to grab onto and infect our cells (Rosen, 2023). But wait- before you switch off: The virus has surprised us. This small change, known as, ‘F486P’, boosting the virus’s ability to “bind” to our cells (Rosen, 2023). This little sub-variant has been able to take all the most dangerous traits of its parents and become much, much more contagious (Rosen, 2023).

More worrying, it’s taken this new contagiousness and inherited its forefathers’ ability to hide from our immune system (Rosen, 2023).

We’ve all been here before. But one worries what will happen once this sub-variant reaches China. Get your boosters everyone (Rosen, 2023).

Is The Kraken Sub-Variant In South Africa?

Since scientists from Stellenbosch university confirmed 1 case of XBB 1.5 ‘Kraken’ COVID in Jan 2023, this sub-variant has spread throughout South Africa (NICD, 2023).

The sub variant of omicron known as XBB.1.5 was the dominant lineage in February (69%), March (78%) and April (81%) (NICD, 2023). It is currently dominant in May (79%), although this is based on low numbers (n=19) (NICD, 2023).

Recently, XBB.1.16 has been detected at a low numbers in March and April (<5%) in Gauteng (n=3) and the Western Cape (n=4) (NICD, 2023).

Are We Going To Have A Kraken COVID Wave In South Africa?

Yes, this variant has spread throughout South Africa but due to high antibody waves, it is affecting people much like the flu does during flu season.

In our HUTS 2 study we found that 97% of South Africans had antibodies against COVID.

This can clearly be seen when you compare the ‘seroprevalence’, or percentage of people that tested positive for COVID antibodies, between April 2021 (the dark green) and April 2022 (the light green). In those under 5 years old, 100%, of children tested positive for COVID antibodies.

This all boils down to our antibodies should give us some protection against new sub-variants like Kraken COVID. But antibodies are tricky things, there’s evidence that sometimes COVID antibodies fade away or a variant might find away to doge them.

That’s why we need your help to monitor what COVID variants are infecting South Africans. If you feel sick with COVID or flu like symptoms, and are over 5yrs, you should claim your free test with Epicentre.

Why Does It Matter That People Don’t Know What Virus They Have?

When there is a strong surge in positive infections for a virus that is not COVID-19 post 2020, it strongly increases the daily demand for COVID-19 testing (Kovacevic et al., 2022), whilst making it look like the percentage of people testing positive for COVID-19 is going down (Kovacevic et al., 2022).

This distorts and masks the real risk COVID-19 poses to the public, creating a false sense of security (Kovacevic et al., 2022). This is because COVID-19 has not really gone down during that period, the pool of testers has simply got larger (Kovacevic et al., 2022).

*They took a bunch of other people’s research studies that answered their question and analyzed their results, and then averaged their results to find the most middle answer to their question. It’s also called ‘updated’, because other people did this in 2020, so they’re looking at newer results from research that has been done since then.

How 57 Countries Fought COVID: Key Lessons For The Next Pandemic

So big news from the global health world, the World Health Organization has published an amazing report on how 57 different countries battled COVID-19 during the pandemic. Read more by clicking here

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Getting Sick In 2023: Is It The Flu, A Cold Or COVID?

The virus landscape has changed a lot since late 2019. In the pre-COVID world, when we got a runny nose, a cough or a sore throat, it was usually obvious what bug was bothering us. Now the answer is usually less obvious and more troubling. Read more here.

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