Are 'Kraken' fears overblown? Experts say XBB.1.5 variant is NOT spreading as ... trends now

Are 'Kraken' fears overblown? Experts say XBB.1.5 variant is NOT spreading as ... trends now
Are 'Kraken' fears overblown? Experts say XBB.1.5 variant is NOT spreading as ... trends now

Are 'Kraken' fears overblown? Experts say XBB.1.5 variant is NOT spreading as ... trends now

Fears about the 'Kraken' Covid variant might be overblown, experts warned today as data showed it's not spreading as quickly as first feared. 

XBB.1.5 — a spin-off of Omicron — is thought to be the most transmissible strain yet.

Its emergence stoked concerns that it was getting through vaccine-induced immunity after it triggered a 'stunning increase' in cases in the US, where it was first detected.

But the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the American agency in charge of tackling the virus, has now downgraded its estimates of how many infections are being caused by the variant.

Latest data show XBB.1.5 made up just 18.3 per cent of Covid cases in the US in the week ending December 31 (second right column, dark blue)

Latest data show XBB.1.5 made up just 18.3 per cent of Covid cases in the US in the week ending December 31 (second right column, dark blue)

Previously, 41 per cent of infections were reported as XBB.1.5 in the week (far right column, dark blue)

Previously, 41 per cent of infections were reported as XBB.1.5 in the week (far right column, dark blue) 

Latest data show the variant made up just 18.3 per cent of cases in the week ending December 31. 

Previously, 41 per cent of infections were estimated to be caused by XBB.1.5 in the week. 

Professor Paul Hunter, a public health expert at the University of East Anglia, told MailOnline: 'CDC's estimate of the rate of growth of XBB.1.5 looks like being too high.

'They have downgraded their estimate of the percentage of all infections due for week ending 31st December from 40.5 per cent to just 18.3 per cent in that same week.'

Professor Hunter admitted it was 'still growing' but insisted the situation is a 'lot less scary than it seemed a few days ago'.

Despite the overestimation, the latest CDC figures do show XBB.1.5 infections are making up a greater proportion of all cases now.

Some 27.6 per cent of Covid cases sequenced in the week ending January 7 were caused by the variant. 

It remains the only sub-variant increasing in prevalence in the US.

But, like in the UK, the data only reflects a faction of the actual cases being seen. 

Professor Hunter said: 'Certainly the very, very rapid growth that was suggested last week doesn’t appear to be the case. 

'To a large extent, the rate of growth of an infection is a reasonable indicator of the eventual height of the curve (the peak number of infections). So very rapid growth early on leads to many more infections at the peak.

'But looking at more recent data it does appear the rate of growth in the US seems to be slowing quite a bit. 

'But sequencing results in most recent weeks are often quite uncertain as it can take up to three weeks for positives to be sequenced. Also surveillance systems over holiday periods are particularly flaky.'

He added: 'So at present XBB.1.5 doesn’t look as though it will cause a big a problem as many felt last week. 

'But give it another week when we shall be

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