‘Kraken’ COVID Symptoms: What to Know About the Strain Sweeping Through the U.S. and Now in at Least 28 Other Countries

Fortune Well | By Eleanor Pringle

COVID hospitalizations in the U.S. have spiked 16.1% in the past week as a new “escaped” variant of the virus has continued to sweep across the country.

XBB.1.5— dubbed ‘Kraken’ by Canadian biology professor Dr. Ryan Gregory and his following in the Twitterverse—is the most transmissible COVID variant yet, according to the World Health Organization.

A risk assessment is currently being drawn up for the new mutant strain by WHO’s technical advisory group on virus evolution, Maria Van Kerkhove, technical lead for COVID-19 response at the authority, said on Wednesday.

XBB.1.5 began alarming scientists at the tail end of last year after the number of Kraken cases in the U.S. rose from 1% of all cases at the start of December to 41% just three weeks later.

This week, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention projected that it comprised around 75% of infections in regions 1 and 2, which include Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, Vermont, New York, New Jersey, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

The strain is believed to be in at least 28 other countries—including Europe—with cases of XBB.1.5 now thought to make up 4% of COVID cases in the U.K.

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