Under the microscope of experts and authorities is the sub-variant of the Kraken coronavirus, which is sweeping the USA.
According to a report by Politico, there is good news and bad news for Europe. The cons are that the Kraken is more contagious, however, the pros are that the Old Continent has some time to prepare.
"Cases due to the variant are likely to increase, but not within the next month, as it is currently found at very low levels in the European Union," writes the European Center for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) in a recent assessment, according to Politico.
On Wednesday, one of the WHO's chiefs, Maria Van Kerkhove, said the agency was concerned about how quickly the variant was replacing others in circulation. In the US, it rose from 4% of cases to 40% within weeks, according to the response coordinator COVID-19 of the White House. However, it is not clear whether it causes more serious disease.
The ECDC writes that the increased rate of spread is likely due to XBB.1.5's ability to bypass protection built up by previous infections or vaccination. It also has a mutation in the spike protein – the part of the virus that attaches to host cells – which may provide some advantage.
Kraken: In which European countries has it been detected?
For now, the subvariant is just a blip on Europe's radar in terms of case numbers, the ECDC said, although it has been detected in Denmark, France, Austria, the Netherlands, Germany, Italy, Spain, Sweden, Iceland, Belgium, Czech Republic, Portugal and Ireland. Figures from the US show that XBB.1.5 is spreading aggressively, with cases doubling every nine days.
As Politico notes, just because the subversion is sweeping the US doesn't necessarily mean Europe will soon find itself in the eye of the storm. "Large differences in the circulation of the variant have been observed between North America and Europe several times during the pandemic," ECDC writes.
With information from Politico