New Covid-19 strain on the rise

JACKSON COUNTY, Ore. —A new Covid-19 strain is making its way across the nation. Local health experts are weighing in on what this means for southern Oregon.

Right now Jackson County Public Health says the BQ Omicron subvariants are the predominant subvariants in Oregon. But it anticipates the XBB1.5 Variant, also given the name Kraken will take its place in the coming weeks.

“Certainly within the next few weeks, it’s reasonable to anticipate that XBB or Kraken is going to be the main variant spreading in our area,” said Jackson County Public Health Officer, Dr. Leona O’Keefe.

Dr. O’Keefe says the new XBB1.5 variant is the most transmissible sub-variant we’ve seen so far. It accounted for around 43% of cases across the country last week according to the CDC.  That’s more than any other subvariant the agency tracks.

“The thing that changes about it is how it enters our body and is able to replicate to make copies of itself, each variant comes up with a new sneaky way to make its way past your immunity, this very way has its own way of getting past our immunity and that’s what allows it to spread so quickly,” said O’Keefe.

Symptoms of the new variant include cough, fever, and muscle aches like the flu. Dr. O’Keefe says locally Ccovid cases and hospitalizations have been decreasing.  But with the arrival of Kraken, she anticipates that will change.

“If it’s infecting more people because it’s more transmissible than just purely by numbers because it’s infecting more people, we can anticipate more hospitalizations and that’s what’s been predicted a slight bump in Covid hospitalizations,” said Dr. O’Keefe.

O’Keefe says the only way to tell the difference between which subvariant you have is through lab sequencing.

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Jenna King is the 6pm and 11pm anchor for NBC5 News. Jenna is a Burbank, CA native. She graduated from the University of Oregon with a degree in Broadcast Journalism and a minor in Sports Business. During her time at Oregon she was part of the student-run television station, Duck TV. She also grew her passion for sports through her internship with the PAC 12 Network. When Jenna is not in the newsroom you can find her rooting for her hometown Dodgers, exploring the outdoors or binging on the latest Netflix release.
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