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DoH confident current available COVID-19 treatments still work against all Omicron variants

Dr. Elizabeth Lauvao
Including the new one: “Kraken”

Pago Pago, AMERICAN SAMOA — The Department of Health (DoH) is confident that the current COVID-19 vaccines and treatments still work for all infections from Omicron variants and sub-variants, including the new XBB.1.5 also known as Kraken.

The DoH has already sent samples overseas for testing to determine whether this new variant is on island, according to DoH Clinical Service director Dr. Elizabeth Lauvao, in response to Samoa News questions.

There were concerns raised by members of the public regarding the XBB.1.5 also known as Kraken, a new variant of COVID-19 that is spreading across the U.S, Fiji, New Zealand, and other countries that have daily flights to neighboring island, Samoa, and those in close proximity to American Samoa.

Dr Lauvao referenced her responses to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) COVID-19 Data Tracker Weekly review, specifically the week ending Jan. 7, 2023.

“Regarding the variant, it’s a new year but we are still dealing with the same variant (Omicron and its sub variants).

“These variants continue to mutate.

“XBB.1.5 is a subvariant of Omicron and based on the number of cases, XBB.1.5 is spreading quickly.

“According to CDC, XBB.1.5 appeared in late November [2022] and the number of persons infected started to rise in the beginning of December 2022; CDC will continue to investigate ways in which XBB.1.5 may be different from other Omicron sub variants.

“CDC’s COVID-19 guidance remains the same about how people can best protect themselves from any serious illness (e.g. staying home when sick, COVID-19 vaccines, masking, social distancing, hand washing.”

She said at the moment current COVID-19 vaccines and treatment still work for all infections from Omicron variants and sub-variants.

“We have COVID-19 vaccines on-island and DoH will continue to use them.”

She told Samoa News with the new subvariant of Omicron, DoH has sent positive COVID-19 rapid antigen tests off-island for sequencing to determine if the subvariant is in American Samoa.

“The public is advised to continue practicing the prevention measures mentioned previously.

“DoH is closely monitoring data, publications, and advice from CDC on XBB.1.5 and at the same time, monitoring our cases here on the island.

“As more information … becomes available and changes in our cases occurs, DoH will continue to inform the public.

“We will continue to collaborate with our partners, such as FEMA and CDC, during the biweekly USAPI COVID-19 19 updates.

“Additionally, we advise the public to come in and get tested if they are sick with flu-like symptoms.”

Radio New Zealand reports the XBB.1.5 variant has been detected in New Zealand and Fiji.

RNZ reports the whole genome sequencing results for two Covid-19 cases with XBB.1.5 were reported by the Institute of Environmental Science and Research (ESR) late last week.

“The detection of XBB.1.5 is not unexpected, following its recent detection in Australia and globally, and our COVID-19 response accounts for the emergence of new variants,” the ministry said on Monday.

Kraken is descended from the Omicron XBB subvariant, itself a cross between two earlier strains: BA.2.75 and BA.2.10.1.

The World Health Organization (WHO) said it has been detected in at least 31 other countries.

While it is difficult to establish whether this variant would become the predominant one in the community, the ministry noted the proportion of cases in the USA with this variant had been “rapidly increasing” since its detection there in October last year.

“XBB.1.5 appears to be outcompeting other XBB sub-lineages and BQ.1.1 in the USA,” the ministry said.

“It remains unknown how XBB.1.5 will compete against other variants in a New Zealand context, and whether this could affect the level of COVID-19 circulating in the community in the coming months.

There is no evidence at this stage to indicate XBB.1.5 caused a more severe disease compared to other variants, the New Zealand health ministry said.