[COLUMN] XBB.1.5 is kraken!

WHEN it comes to diseases, especially contagious ones, prevention is the best strategy to avoid infection and transmission to others. And the best preventive tool we have is the vaccine, followed by hygiene, masking, and social distancing, as in the case of COVID-19. All these mitigating measures are aimed at preventing spread of the infection, hospitalizations, and deaths.

Although people are letting their guards down following President Joe Biden’s declaration last month that the pandemic was over, there are still around 67,000 cases of COVID-19 with almost 500 associated deaths on average per day for the past couple of weeks. On January 4, 2023, there were 207,391 cases of COVID-19, with 2,126 deaths, and around 47,000 hospitalizations, a 17 percent increase over 2 weeks before. After the BA.4 and BA.5, the dominant subvariant now is the BQ.1.1, with 34 percent of the cases nationwide, followed by XBB.1.5 (named kraken), with 28 percent of the cases, and vying for first place.

Sea monster

The new subvariant of omicron called XBB.1.5 or kraken, named after the legendary gigantic sea monster, is drawing a lot of concerns among scientists. It is showing rapid rise in hospitalization, especially among those 70 and older, in certain states in the U.S.

Kraken, which caused a huge outbreak in Asia the fall of 2022, is highly transmissible (the fastest yet) compared to the other past sub-strains, doubling weekly in the United States. It could already be in the Philippines, but under the radar. As long as there are people out there who are unvaccinated, and people who do not wear masks to protect themselves and others, the virus will continue to replicate in the bodies of those individuals and mutate to newer (potentially more deadly) strains and sub-variants. The more bodies the virus infects and goes through, the more it mutates. Kraken has been shown to be highly immune-evasive and has the highest immune-escape ability, 63 percent more resistant to antibodies. Scientists do not know if kraken will respond to the current vaccines.

Protect yourself

Still the best way to protect oneself is to update your COVID-19 vaccine and get vaccinated with the latest bivalent vaccine. The recent news about its side effects have been shown not to be true among the general population. The vaccines are safer than COVID-19 infection. In view of these new waves, resume using your NIOSH-approved N95 mask when outdoors, in stores, etc., engage in frequent handwashing, and continue to do social distancing and avoiding crowds. When exposed to any infected person or someone coughing and when you develop a cough, with or without fever or malaise, test yourself. If positive, let your physician know, and stay home; isolate yourself to protect other members of the household.

Foods for ED

There are about 30 million men in the United States who have erectile dysfunction, the inability to maintain good erection to perform effective penetration and sexual intercourse.

The following food items are suggested by food experts (and items to avoid) for those with ED for sexual health – Mediterranean diet is recommended by the Massachusetts Male Aging Study, with mostly veggies, whole grains, fruits, healthy fats (olive oil, avocados), and the following items: fish, blackberries, and other berries, chocolate, spinach, oatmeal, watermelon, pistachios, avocados, pomegranate, bananas, chili peppers, and most green and multi-color leafy vegetables. Items to avoid are soy-based products, licorice, alcoholic beverages, and sugary drinks, like soft drinks, which are general toxic to the body. If the above preventive measures and trial with prescription ED pills (like Viagra, Cialis, Levitra, etc.) fail, medical consultation is prudent.

Cervical cancer

Cancer of the mouth of the womb (cervical) could now be prevented with a vaccine, thank God for medical science! The first-generation Gardasil was produced by Merck in 2006 for young girls and boys to prevent Human Papillary Virus (HPV, the cause of cervical cancer in 96 percent of cases). In 2021, there were almost 15,000 cases of cervical cancer, with almost 4300 deaths in the U.S. Women 21 to 65 are recommended to have a Pap smear test every 3 years. Oropharyngeal and anal cancers are also (sexually) caused by HPV infections. Since 2017, Gardasil-9 (effective against 9 strains of HPV) is the only available HPV vaccine in the United States.

But the problem is some mothers refuse to allow their young (as early as 9 years old) sons to get Gardasil for fear of possible complications (rare and mild). This then exposes these young boys to HPV and spread it to the girls they have sex with who would then have HPV and a high risk for future cervical cancer. The 99-plus percent preventive power and efficacy of Gardasil is sadly severely reduced when boys are not also vaccinated. That translates to thousands of deaths annually from an otherwise preventable cervical cancer.

A great lesson

Science is clear: If the U.S. was locked down (no-one-in without quarantine first, no-one-out) since January 1, 2020, masking and social distancing required when the first case was diagnosed in Washington State, and vaccination for all federally mandated when the MRNA vaccines were first developed, this pandemic in the U.S. could have been prevented. And so with the national economic devastation (countless billions of expenses), mental anguish, disrupted education of our children and the negative impact on their and our psyche and emotion, etc. A medical situation should be managed by medical scientists, epidemiologists, and not by politicians or misinformed mothers, or civil right activists/protestors, or radio-TV anchors.

If we haven’t learned our lesson yet from the way the government and we, The People, have poorly handled and mismanaged this pandemic, the next severe one could possibly annihilate countless millions of us in the United States.

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The opinions, beliefs and viewpoints expressed by the author do not necessarily reflect the opinions, beliefs and viewpoints of the Asian Journal, its management, editorial board and staff.

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Philip S. Chua, MD, FACS, FPCS, a Cardiac Surgeon Emeritus based in Northwest Indiana and Las Vegas, Nevada, is an international medical lecturer/author, Health Advocate, newspaper columnist, and Chairman of the Filipino United Network-USA, a 501(c)3 humanitarian foundation in the United States. Websites: FUN8888.com, Today.SPSAtoday.com, and philipSchua.com; Email: [email protected].


Dr. Philip S. Chua

Philip S. Chua, MD, FACS, FPCS, Cardiac Surgeon Emeritus in Northwest Indiana and chairman of cardiac surgery from 1997 to 2010 at Cebu Doctors University Hospital, where he holds the title of Physician Emeritus in Surgery, is based in Las Vegas, Nevada. He is a Fellow of the American College of Surgeons, the Philippine College of Surgeons, and the Denton A. Cooley Cardiovascular Surgical Society. He is the chairman of the Filipino United Network – USA, a 501(c)(3) humanitarian foundation in the United States.

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