What’s behind the new ‘Kraken’ COVID variant?

Photo courtesy – Unsplash/Fusion Medical Animation

Another day, another COVID subvariant you should be aware of. 

The World Health Organization (WHO) has deemed a new Omicron variant, known as Kraken, the most transmissible subvariant yet.

Data from Public Health Ontario shows Kraken will likely be responsible for about one quarter (22 per cent) of all new COVID cases in Ontario before the end of this week. 

Just three weeks ago, it was responsible for only two per cent.

Experts say Kraken is proven to be more contagious, but there is no data that shows it causes any more severe illness compared to previous Omicron variants. 

Why is it called Kraken?

Kraken is quite an eye-grabbing name for a COVID subvariant.

An expert committee advising the WHO recommended using the Greek alphabet to describe notable variants, back in June 2021. 

The naming system is meant to reduce the geographical stigma that can come from associating viruses with specific places. It also makes it easier for the everyday person to understand and remember, rather than the traditional scientific codes given to variants.

For example, Kraken’s scientific name is XBB.1.5. 

Kraken was first coined by University of Guelph researcher, Ryan Gregory, as a way to make people take notice of the strain.

It’s also noteworthy that a name like Kraken is bound to grab your attention, and expresses the severity and seriousness of the virus. 

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