THE latest Covid variant has been detected in Wales and it could become the dominant strain of the disease.
XBB.1.5, also known as “Kraken”, has been detected in Wales after the UK Health Security Agency said this latest variant of Omnicom has a “growth advantage” in the UK.
Kraken caused alarm in the US after spreading rapidly in the country, and it has now been confirmed it has crossed the pond to Welsh shores.
It’s not all doom and gloom though, as PHW reassured the public current cases of XBB.1.5 are low.
“We have detected XBB.1.5 as part of our routine monitoring in Wales, and as part of our surveillance of circulating lineages,” said Dr Chris Williams, consultant epidemiologist for PHW.
“We currently have very low numbers of cases, with 38 identified as of Jan 18.”
The Welsh Government said that XBB.1.5 was first detected in the UK on November 21, 2022, and confirmed that since that time the number of cases has increased.
One of the aspects of Kraken the government was still unsure about was the effect it would have on Covid hospitalisations.
“Data on XBB.1.5 are limited and there is insufficient information to suggest whether or not it will result in a more severe clinical presentation or increased hospitalisations,” said a government spokesperson.
The news comes as the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) told the Express that Kraken, along with another Omnicom variant, CH.1.1, also known as Orthrus, have “growth advantages” in the UK.
Orthrus, nicknamed after a mythical two-headed dog, has seen cases surge in the UK, with the variant accounting for one-fifth of Covid cases in England.
The Welsh Government did point out the rapid growth observed in the US does not mean the same will be observed in the UK, with major differences in variant circulation between North America and Europe having been observed in the past. While Public Health Wales said there are many mitigating factors in transmission rate of viruses including existing immunity in a population and the actions taken when we have symptoms of infectious disease.
In the latest ONS data on Covid for Wales, the per cent of people testing positive for Covid-19 decreased in the week ending January 3.
It was estimated 157,000, or 5.16 per cent of the population in Wales had Covid (a decrease from 5.70 per cent in the previous reference week), equating to around one in 19 people. This data included all variants.