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Austin Spreading 'Kraken' COVID-19 Subvariant

Posted by S. Kit on
Austin, Texas skyline from Auditorium Shores

XBB.1.5 Omicron subvariant -- which has been nicknamed "Kraken" (after the mythical sea monster) -- is the strain of the coronavirus (Sars-CoV-2) that was first detected in Travis County this month. This subvariant has been classified as a "variant of concern" by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) due to its potential increased transmissibility and resistance to current vaccines.

The origins of this subvariant are not entirely clear, but it is believed to have arisen through genetic mutations that occurred in the virus as it spread throughout the Austin community. This is a common occurrence with viruses, as they replicate and mutate rapidly. The exact mechanism of how XBB.1.5 Omicron emerged is still under investigation. But scientists believe it may have evolved through a process called "antigenic drift," which occurs when the virus mutates in a way that allows it to evade the immune response generated by vaccines or prior infections.


Read more: WHO: XBB.1.5 Omicron Subvariant Spreading Quickly


The subvariant has been shown to have several mutations in the spike protein, which is the part of the virus that binds to human cells and allows it to enter and infect them. These mutations may have increased the virus's ability to bind to human cells, making it more infectious. Studies also suggest that this subvariant may be more resistant to the neutralizing antibodies generated by current COVID-19 vaccines, although more research is needed to confirm this.

white N95 mask

The increased transmissibility and resistance to current vaccines have led to concern about the spread of XBB.1.5 Omicron and its potential impact on the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. The CDC has recommended that individuals in Austin and surrounding areas get tested for COVID-19, even if they are asymptomatic, and that they comply with all current guidelines for preventing the spread of the virus, including wearing masks, practicing social distancing, and avoiding large gatherings.

In addition to these recommendations, public health officials are also taking steps to increase the number of COVID-19 tests being conducted in Austin and surrounding areas. This will help identify and track the spread of XBB.1.5 Omicron, as well as identify individuals who may have been infected with the subvariant and are at risk of transmitting it to others.


Read more: Are COVID Cases Rising?


Vaccines are also being developed to protect against XBB.1.5 Omicron, which several pharmaceutical companies announcing clinical trials of new or updated vaccines that target this subvariant. These vaccines are designed to generate stronger immune response against the mutations found in XBB.1.5 Omicron, and are expected to be more effective at preventing infection with this subvariant. 

white N95 masks with brown boxes and bold texts that says respiratory protection

While the emergence of XBB.1.5 Omicron is a concern, it is important to remember that COVID-19 vaccines currently available are still effective at preventing severe illness and death from the virus. Additionally, the public health measures that have been put in place to slow the spread of the virus, such as mask-wearing and social distancing, are still important in preventing the spread of XBB.1.5 Omicron and other subvariants.

The emergence of XBB.1.5 Omicorn highlights the need for continued monitoring of the virus and the development of new vaccines and treatments to combat it. While the situation in Austin is concerning, scientists and public health officials are working tirelessly to understand and control the spread of this subvariant and protect the public's health.


Read more: 'Kraken' XBB.1.5 Omicon Subvariant Symptoms


In summary, XBB.1.5 Omicron subvariant is a strain of SARS-CoV-2 that has been spreading in the local Austin area, and public health officials are asking the public to consider wearing masks again, when social distancing  is not possible. Austin Public Health has already been requiring masks again in all public health facilitites since mid-December 2022.

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