COVID-19 subvariant 'Kraken' arrives in Waterloo-Wellington
The newest subvariant of the COVID-19 virus has now been detected in Waterloo Region and Wellington-Dufferin-Guelph.
Ontario Public Health confirms 14 positive cases for XBB.1.5, also known as Kraken, in Waterloo Region, and nine positive cases in Wellington-Dufferin Guelph between Dec. 18 and Jan. 14.
"This was expected, I don’t think this comes as a surprise," said Zahid Butt, an infectious disease epidemiologist at the University of Waterloo. "Obviously there would be a lot more cases than what you’re seeing now."
Health experts warn the Kraken subvariant will become the dominant strain in Ontario, and is projected to make up 44 per cent of new cases by Feb. 1.
Dr. Hsiu-Li Wang, the Medical Officer of Health for Waterloo Region, said in a statement: "COVID-19 is still with us. We should expect to see new variants emerge (such as XBB.1.5) and additional waves of COVID-19."
"Kraken is increasing as it is spreading,” said Dr. Nicola Mercer, the Medical Officer of Health for Wellington-Dufferin-Guelph. "But the evidence so far is not showing us that it’s going to be more severe."
The rise in cases comes as COVID-19 vaccinations stall. According to Region of Waterloo Public Health, only 21.5 per cent of people have received two booster shots of the vaccine.
"In the face of new variants and a background level of vaccinations and previous infections, our recommendations remain the same," said Dr. Wang. "I would encourage residents to continue to use all the tools that we have at our disposal to reduce our chances of severe outcomes from COVID-19 infection. This includes staying up-to-date with the recommended vaccine and booster doses. As COVID-19 can linger and spread through the air, wear a well-fitted mask (such as a N95, KN95 or medical mask) in indoor public spaces and improve or maintain good indoor air ventilation."
Dr. Mercer is also encouraging people to keep up-to-date with booster shots, especially as the travel season nears.
“There’s nothing worse than going through an airport and arriving at your destination and coming down with COVID symptoms to ruin your holiday,” she said. “Think about getting a booster.”
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