In Norwegian mythology and the classic works of Jules Verne, the Kraken is portrayed as a mythical giant sea monster of mythical proportions. We’re lucky that this terrifying creature is solely the stuff of fictional myth, but the newest strain of the COVID-19 virus is anything but mythical.
While the XBB family of COVID variants has been known for a few months, its latest mutation, XBB.1.5, has only recently emerged at the forefront. According to the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, this COVID variant, nicknamed the “Kraken” to some, has more known mutations to evade immunity than any other past strain of COVID. This variant has slowly arisen since the Thanksgiving holiday, coinciding with the uptick in other respiratory illnesses like the flu and RSV.
As reported by larger outlets such as Reuters, XBB.1.5. currently comprises the largest share of ongoing COVID-19 transmissions and infections in the United States, around 27.5% according to the latest estimates. The most intense transmission appears to be occurring around New York, New Jersey, and the Northeastern United States as a whole, where the variant is believed to be accounting for 70% of ongoing COVID-19 transmissions, per The Washington Post.
Although it’s good news that medical experts’ concerns over a “tridemic” appear to be receding (with platforms like NPR reporting that RSV and flu cases appear to be on a decline), the bad news is that COVID case numbers are all on the up and up. Virologists are keeping a close, watchful eye on this new subvariant, and you should too. Here’s what you need to know about the Kraken, how it differs from other sub-variants of the COVID-19 virus, and what you can do to properly protect yourself and your loved ones.
New COVID Variant Symptoms
XBB.1.5 is a subvariant of Omicron, and usually follows a similar infection timeline to other illnesses in this virus family:
- The infected individual might take 5 days to reach the symptomatic phase
- The infected person remains contagious for 1-2 days before symptoms emerge
- The infected person can continue to be contagious with the live virus for a week
On average, this contagious symptomatic phase can last for up to a week, and this symptomatic phase commonly mirrors the upper respiratory health symptoms most commonly experienced by people infected with other variants of Omicron, including:
- Sore throat and hoarse voice
- Headaches and muscle aches
- Runny nose and congestion
- Sneezing and coughing
- Tiredness and fatigue
All of these symptoms could also be indicative of influenza or the common cold, and especially now in the middle of winter, you might be unsure which out of these three conditions is afflicting you. Even if you’re unsure whether it’s a cold, flu, or the Kraken, we’d still recommend you perform a COVID-19 home test.
It’s better to be safe than it is to be sorry, especially if you happen to have any elderly or immunocompromised loved ones who could face a greater risk of contracting severe disease. If your test results come back positive, we would also recommend that you do your best to follow the most up-to-date COVID-19 isolation precautions recommended by The Centers for Disease Control.
XBB.1.5 is unique from other Omicron variants of COVID-19, in that it has more known mutations to circumvent immunity than other strains of the disease. Even if you caught a prior COVID-19 variant or Omicron subvariant at some point between March 2020 and today, you might still be susceptible to suffering reinfection with the XBB.1.5 variant.
Fortunately, as of now, the World Health Organization’s latest risk assessment has not identified any mutations that indicate an exacerbated risk of severe disease. That tracks with the patterns followed by other sub-variants in the Omicron family; the strain is more contagious and fast acting than other variants of the novel coronavirus, but the symptoms tend to be less severe.
However, though this risk is rare, it’s not 100% out of the realm of impossibility. If you’re starting to chronically suffer from one or more of these severe COVID-19 symptoms, we would recommend that you seek emergency medical attention ASAP:
- Severe difficulty breathing
- Difficulty staying awake
- Pale/blue skin discoloration
- Confusion and brain fog
- Severe, persistent chest pain
It’s too early to tell whether XBB.1.5 has a higher or lower risk for long-term infection than other variants of COVID. But if you’ve received the appropriate care and are still routinely ill, we would encourage you to read the Center For Disease Control’s guide on living with long-COVID and post-COVID conditions.
Is There An XBB.1.5 Vaccine?
Though the evidence suggests that the Kraken subvariant is better at evading immunity than its predecessors, little evidence presently suggests that it’s more resistant or more impervious to the existing tools we have to promote immunity. Antiviral pharmaceutical medicines like Paxlovid still have efficacy against the XBB subvariants, as do vaccines, booster shots, and particularly the most up-to-date bivalent booster.
Vaccination significantly reduces the risk of a person developing more severe symptoms of disease, as well as any longer-term symptoms of disease. If your last vaccine dose was received six months ago, a year ago, or longer, we'd recommend that you go out, get that bivalent, and update your vax status ASAP.
But in the unfortunate event you come down with the Kraken and need to stay in, there is a plethora of trusted telemedicine providers that might be able to offer the support and wellness resources you need, including pharmaceutical medications, COVID-19 home tests, and the support of a licensed, board-certified online doctor. One provider we’d recommend in particular is Sesame Care.
Is Sesame Care Legit?
We think so. Sesame Care offers a significant amount of telehealth wellness resources, at significantly more affordable costs than other providers.
That said, we’d still encourage you to read our own review - as well as other Sesame Care reviews - before making up your own mind. If you like what they have to offer, you can use the signup code “SESAME15” to enjoy 15% off eligible services.
We hope you and your loved ones continue to stay safe, healthy, and happy!