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XBB.1.5 is the latest COVID-19 subvariant: What you need to know

"Kraken" is not the scientific term, though it is a nickname coined by some on the internet for the latest subvariant

As COVID-19 continues to evolve, the virus's latest variant, XBB.1.5, is being described as its "most transmissible" version yet by the World Health Organization.

So what should Canadians know about the deadly virus' latest iteration? Yahoo Canada spoke to Toronto epidemiologist Isaac Bogoch it and what you should keep in mind.

Can XBB.1.5 spread more quickly?

XBB.1.5 has a few mutations in it which may give it some growth advantage over other variants, Bogoch explains. So far, it’s been found in over 30 counties, including Canada. However, while it appears to have some growth advantage, it’s not to the same extent that it was initially thought to have.

“A few weeks ago, the CDC projected XBB.1.5 to represent over 40 per cent of all COVID samples in the United States,” he says. “It was actually downgraded based on more places reporting data to represent closer to 20 per cent of sequence samples.”

While XBB.1.5 been shown to “wiggle around” our protective immunity and cause reinfection, Bogoch says it’s not seeing the degree of exponential growth it was initially thought to have.

Want to avoid getting XBB.1.5? It's simple

If you want to avoid getting sick, it’s important to follow the guidelines health-care experts have been issuing since the beginning of the pandemic. Mask up, especially in indoor spaces; and get vaccinated and boosted as soon as possible.

“At the end of the day, Omicron is Omicron and people can get infected or reinfected and the tools to protect ourselves, regardless of what’s circulating, are the same,” Bogoch says. “The people who are eligible for vaccinations should get their vaccine, especially those in at-risk populations.”

What is known for certain is that we can also expect the virus to continue to mutate, because that’s what the virus does.

“Kraken” is not the scientific term

While XBB.1.5 doesn’t exactly roll off the tongue, some on the internet have taken to nicknaming it "Kraken," led by evolutionary biologist Dr. Ryan Gregory at the University of Guelph.

In an interview with the Canadian Press, Gregory says he saw the need for a nickname to spark interest in notable lineages instead of hard-to-remember strings of letters and numbers.

Editor's note: Due to a reporting error, a previous version of this story included a misattribution of a quote to a source. We regret the error.