Skip to main content

'We all need to stay vigilant': Medical professionals concerned about RSV, new 'Kraken' variant


Many people have experienced respiratory illness lately, which has some experts concerned that the surge in cases of RSV, COVID-19 and flu is creating a potential "tripledemic."

Dr. Scott Hadland, a pediatrician with Mass General Brigham hospitals in Boston, says medical professionals are worried about the three viruses in a “pretty serious way right now,” particularly when it comes to children.

“We’re seeing an indication that, yes, perhaps, flu might be levelling off or slowing down a little bit in eastern parts of Canada and Atlantic regions, but RSV infections remain really high,” he said during an interview with CTV Morning Live Atlantic.

“In fact, COVID seems to be resurging again … as folks return from after the holidays and have started to mingle again and in workplace and in schools. And there are new variants as there always seems to be with COVID that may be causing problems.”

While the Public Health Agency of Canada has said it’s too early to tell if the new Omicron subvariant XBB.1.5 is spreading in Canada beyond scattered cases, Hadland says “Kraken” is particularly prevalent in the northeastern regions of the United States.

“Although it does seem to be causing less severe disease for many people, it seems to be highly transmissible; in fact, one of the most highly transmissible variants that we’ve seen to date and so it really is spreading quickly.”

The three viruses have similar symptoms, which can make it difficult for people to tell which one they are infected with. Hadland says it’s only possible to tell through testing.

“Although people should do a rapid COVID test to help guide some of their management about whether they should go back to their usual activities or not, in many cases, if that COVID test is negative you won’t know what virus that is and so we should sort of handle them all the same, and take the same precautions for all of them.”

It can also be challenging for people to determine how long they are contagious. Anyone with an active fever is likely to be highly contagious, Hadland says.

“But any time that you’re coughing or having runny nose or having active other symptoms, those secretions, that mucus, that cough often can have virus in it, so that’s a clear sign that you should ideally stay home. Get a test to figure out if you have COVID or not to help guide whether and when you can go back to work.”

He adds that getting vaccinated against COVID-19 and flu is the “single-most important thing” people can do to avoid getting themselves and their children seriously ill.

“The bottom line is, getting these vaccines can keep you protected,” says Hadland. “And then the usual stuff that we know from the COVID pandemic – staying home if you’re sick, getting tested for COVID, and making sure that you’re wearing a mask if you’re out in public places, washing your hands – the usual stuff.”

While RSV and flu cases are expected to decline in the upcoming weeks and months, Hadland says medical professionals are still worried about COVID-19.

“This variant, this new COVID variant XBB.1.5, has us a little bit concerned about rates of COVID rising up again and so I think we all need to stay vigilant and yet can remain hopeful also.” Top Stories

Stay Connected