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18 January 2023, 13:00

Healthcare Ministry: No cases of ‘Kraken' Covid variant in Belarus yet

An archive photo
An archive photo

MINSK, 18 January (BelTA) – No cases of the ‘Kraken' Covid variant have been reported in Belarus yet, BelTA informs citing the press service of the Healthcare Ministry.

Specialists of the National Research Center for Epidemiology and Microbiology of the Healthcare Ministry conduct regular molecular genetic screening of SARS-CoV-2 virus variants in order to keep track of new variants circulating in the country. Particular attention is paid to the identification of genetic variants that are of concern to the global health system.

According to the Healthcare Ministry, SARS-CoV-2 viruses continuously evolve as changes in the genetic code occur during replication of the genome.

Sublineages of the Omicron variant continue to circulate in the world. The focus now is on a new Omicron variant XBB.1.5, dubbed ‘Kraken'. This variant can be a recombinant of two different Omicron sublineages. Genetically, XBB.1.5 is similar to other Omicron variants, but it has an improved ability to infect human cells.

For the first time, XBB.1.5 variant was identified in the United States in October 2022 and is now the dominant strain there. The new variant has also been found in at least 35 other countries.

The World Health Organization (WHO) confirmed that XBB.1.5 has a ‘growth advantage' over other variants seen so far. At the same time, the WHO said there was no indication that it was more serious or harmful than previous Omicron variants.

According to the Healthcare Ministry, the incidence of influenza and acute respiratory infections has been declining in Belarus in recent weeks. Influenza viruses account for more than 80% of circulating respiratory viruses at the moment. The main ones are influenza A(H1N1)pdm09, influenza B and A(H3N2). Most cases of influenza (92%) are detected in the outpatient setting.

Other common non-influenza respiratory infections include RS viruses, metapneumoviruses, and rhinoviruses.

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