Kraken, a variant of the virus that causes COVID-19 that has been sweeping through the U.S., is now in B.C.
The Provincial Health Services Authority has confirmed that as of late Wednesday there were at least 12 cases of the Kraken, or XBB.1.5 — a subvariant of Omicron and a variant of concern — in the province. That’s up from the five cases reported Tuesday.
The cases have all been detected in the Vancouver Coastal Health and Fraser Health regions, according to Cassidy Olivier, a spokesperson for the Provincial Health Services Authority.
“It is important to note that these numbers are not reflective of all positive cases in the province. PCR testing is used primarily in health-care settings, such as hospitals, to identify people who are more likely to experience severe illness from COVID-19. PCR tests are needed to sequence the COVID-19 virus to identify variants,” he said in the email.
XBB1.5 is of concern because it has acquired additional mutations that enhances its ability to bind to and thus enter human cells. These mutations may indicate that this variant is able to spread more easily but does not necessarily mean that the resulting illness is more severe, he added.
Getting vaccinated with all recommended doses continues to be important for preventing severe illness from COVID-19, according to the PHSA. It is also vital to stay home if feeling unwell.
Kraken was responsible for 40 per cent of the confirmed COVID cases in the U.S. last week, and 75 per cent of confirmed cases in the American Northeast.
Horacio Bach, an adjunct professor of infectious diseases at UBC and researcher of vaccines, said this week that Kraken has a way of binding to cells that is particularly tight, making it harder to get rid of. He said those who have not been vaccinated or have had only one jab will be more prone to getting sick from the virus.
He is also concerned about long COVID, of which not much is yet known since COVID has only been around since late 2019. And nothing is known of how Kraken will affect long COVID.
Bach said somewhere between 20 and 30 per cent of those who catch COVID suffer from long-term effects.