THERE'S a new Covid variant on the block which is causing a surge in cases as we head into winter.
Fears around the new bug Pirola, or BA.2.86, have prompted ministers to bring forward this autumn’s vaccine rollout as they figure out how dangerous it really is.
This week, scientists from the UK Health Security Agency advised against jumping to any conclusions before more data is available on the Omicron offshoot.
Millions have already had the bug with the Brits having a high level of protection due to the huge vaccine roll out.
They said: “It is important to note that to date only a small number of cases have been identified across the world.
"We will need more data to draw any conclusions about the effect of these mutations on transmissibility and severity of the variant."
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As of this week (September 18), 37 cases of the new bug have been recorded in England, an increase of three infections from the previous week.
Infections have been registered in the east and north of the country, with seven hospitalised while no deaths have been reported.
The UKHSA reported that 28 of the cases were identified as part of a care home outbreak investigation in the east of England.
An additional nine cases were identified through surveillance testing, with six in London, one in the northwest, one in the northeast and one in the east of England.
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None of those cases is understood to have recent travel history, meaning the virus is spreading in the community, the UKHSA said.
These figures likely underestimate the real situation, as the government spiked nationwide testing.
The government’s latest fortnightly flu and Covid-19 surveillance figures issued September 14 also report increased infection and hospitalisation rates (for all variants).
The current Covid hospital admission rate is 4.56 per 100,000 population, up from 3.37 the previous fortnight – the highest rate since April.
It said hospital admission rates have increased in all age groups except in those aged 15 to 24 years.
Dr Eric Feigl-Ding, a US epidemiologist, said the hospitalisation rates were "shocking", especially among the young.
Posting on X/Twitter, he said: "7-day hospitalisations in England for #COVID19 in kids age 0-5 has surged – spiking up by 47 per cent in just one week, near annual high.
"Kids in UK are also among the least vaccinated, don’t ignore the worrisome data.”
The expert has since called for free testing to be introduced, like it has in the US.
What are the symptoms?
Although we don't know what the Pirola symptoms are just yet, doctors have been reporting the Covid disease, in recent months, has been following a very distinctive pattern.
Dr Erick Eiting from Mount Sinai Beth Israel Hospital in New York, US, told NBC news: "It isn’t the same typical symptoms that we were seeing before.
"It’s a lot of congestion, sometimes sneezing, usually a mild sore throat."
The sore throat emerges first followed by a stuffy nose, he explained.
UK doctors have noticed a similar switch up in symptoms.
In February 2021, GPs called for a runny nose and sore throat to be added to the UK’s official list of Covid symptoms.
The NHS website used to only list the three main symptoms of Covid are high temperature, a new and continuous cough, and a loss of taste and smell.
It eventually added upper respiratory tract symptoms, but they currently fall lower down the list.
Some materials say a runny or stuffy nose are considered 'rare', and a sore throat occurs only 'sometimes'.
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The Zoe COVID Symptom Study, which collects data on self-reported symptoms in the UK, said the five most common symptoms of Omicron are:
- Runny nose
- Fatigue (mild or severe)
- Sore throat
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