A new strain of the COVID Omicron variant has begun to spread in the United States.
The subvariant named XBB 1.5, and nicknamed the Kraken, accounts for about 40 per cent of confirmed U.S. COVID cases at this time, which is up about 20 per cent from one week ago, according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention.
Experts in the U.S. say there is no indication that this variant causes more severe illness.
Vancouver International Airport said Saturday it will expand its wastewater testing pilot program as of Jan. 5. The federal government will require that people coming from China, Hong Kong and Macao will have to test negative for COVID-19 before leaving for Canada.
This will apply to any traveller over the age of two.
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Dr. Brian Conway, medical director of the Vancouver Infectious Diseases Centre, told Global News Monday that this subvariant is spreading quickly in the eastern United States and Asia, and will likely become the dominant variant in Canada soon.
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“It may spread more easily, it may attach to cells more easily, it may not be as susceptible to protection by vaccination as the original Omicron or as some of the other variants so we need to keep an eye on this going forward,” Conway said.
However, he added, it is not likely to cause more severe illness than previous variants.
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Conway said everyone should make sure all their vaccinations are up to date, including the latest bivalent vaccine. In addition, people should stay home when they are sick.
However, the concern about long COVID is still present, Conway added and the more times someone becomes sick with the virus, it can make them more susceptible to long COVID.
“So if someone has had their vaccines, two vaccines let’s say, maybe even three … as soon as they are able to get that bivalent booster, I’d strongly encourage you to do so,” he said.
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Conway said he is not sure where the nickname Kraken came from but he hopes it’s to attract attention that a new COVID variant is circulating and that everyone should continue to be vigilant in order to stop the spread of the virus as much as possible.
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