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‘Kraken’ COVID variant detected in Sudbury health unit area

Public health officials are urging residents to get their vaccines updated and to get booster shots

The newest sub-variant of the COVID-19 virus, the Omicron XBB (which includes XBB 1.5) has been detected in the service area of Public Health Sudbury and Districts (PHSD).

The health unit said the new XBB variant is the most transmissible variant detected to date and projections for this week are that it will make up over 20 per cent of all strains detected in Ontario. The new variant is also nicknamed the Kraken variant

With that in mind, PHSD is reminding everyone of the importance of continuing to practice personal protective measures to prevent COVID-19 transmission, including staying up to date with COVID-19 vaccinations and getting a bivalent booster when they're eligible.

“If it has been more than six months since you completed your primary vaccination series, your last COVID-19 booster, or since your last infection, now is the time to get a bivalent booster dose,” said Dr. Imran Adrian Khan, Public Health Physician with PHSD. 

“A bivalent booster helps the immune system to remember how to recognize and fight COVID-19 and it provides greater protection against the Omicron strains of COVID-19 now circulating,” said Khan.

The health unit said all COVID-19 vaccines, including the bivalent boosters, are safe and effective and help to prevent severe illness caused by COVID-19. Vaccines and boosters are effective at helping to prevent serious illness, hospitalization, and death due to COVID-19. Staying up to date is critical regardless of the number of COVID-19 booster doses received to date, said PHSD. 

While those who are vaccinated can still become infected with COVID-19 and suffer less serious effects, health authorities said that people who are unvaccinated are the ones who are most likely to engage a serious infection and require hospitalization. 

This is based on research carried out by Canadian scientists at the Dalla Lana School of Public Health at the University of Toronto. Results published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal (CMAJ) showed the risk of infection was significantly higher among unvaccinated people than among those who are vaccinated.

The same study also found that when unvaccinated people mixed with vaccinated populations, it increased the rate of infection for those who are vaccinated. Also, when the non-vaxxers spent more time with other non-vaxxers, the infection rate shot up by 62 to 79 per cent. 

A statement on the result of the study was as follows:

"We found that the risk of infection was markedly higher among unvaccinated people than among vaccinated people under all mixing assumptions."