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New Omicron variant to become dominant in Ontario

Cases of a new, highly transmissible sub-variant of Omicron have been on the rise in Ontario, and the province's former chief scientific officer said it will become the next dominant strain of COVID-19.

Dr. Fahad Razak said the XBB.1.5 sub variant, also known as 'Kraken,' has been increasing south of the border and it is only a matter of time until Ontario sees a similar jump.

"If we follow the U.S. trajectory, that means this will become the dominant version of the virus circulating probably within a few weeks in Ontario and across the country," said Razak, an internist at St. Michael's Hospital.

According to Public Health Ontario's latest COVID-19 genomic surveillance report released Tuesday, the XBB.1.5 sub-variant is expected to account for 22.2% of COVID-19 cases by the end of this week.

That's a significant jump from a few weeks ago, when only 0.7% of COVID-19 cases were of the Kraken sub-variant. Between Dec. 4 and Dec. 31, there were 105 cases of XBB.1.5 in Ontario. Most of those infected were in the 40 to 59 age group.

Until last week, the Omicron BQ.1.1 sub-variant remained the dominant version.

But that will soon change, as Razak said XBB.1.5 has become the most worrisome among other Omicron sub-variants.

The World Health Organization said last week in a report that XBB 1.5 "may contribute to an increased incidence of cases."

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