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Health officials have so far confirmed 34 cases of the latest Covid variant BA.2.86, dubbed Pirola, that appeared this summer.
Notably, 28 cases were from a single outbreak in a Norfolk care home.
According to Dr Chris Papadopoulos, Principal Lecturer in Public Health at the University of Bedfordshire, the outbreak suggests the Omicron spin-off could spread easily.
The professor told Express.co.uk: “The outbreak in the Norfolk care home indicates that the Pirola variant is highly transmissible, possessing the ability to spread rapidly in enclosed environments.
“In-depth sequencing reveals it has 30 additional mutations in its spike protein compared to prior dominant strains.
READ MORE Professor shares Covid Pirola symptom that could be ‘particularly intense’
“This situation highlights the continued vulnerability of care homes to outbreaks, given the close interactions between residents and their often-weakened immune systems.
“It’s imperative that we vaccinate and provide boosters to such vulnerable people as soon as possible, maintain mask protocols and ensure ventilation.”
Fortunately, the autumn booster programme has been brought forward this week.
Older people are starting to receive their Covid booster shots after concerns linked to Pirola.
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All adults aged 65 years and over will be offered the vaccine automatically, following advice from UK immunisation experts.
Furthermore, the following groups can also receive their extra dose:
- Residents in care homes for older adults
- All adults aged 65 years and over
- People aged six months to 64 years in a clinical risk group
- Frontline health and social care workers
- People aged 12 to 64 who are household contacts of people with weakened immune systems
- People aged 16 to 64 who are carers and staff working in care homes for older adults.
What are the symptoms of Covid Pirola?
While this strain has a high number of mutations, it remains to be determined whether these mutations result in unique or more severe symptoms, the professor noted.
He said: “There’s a possibility that symptoms could be particularly intense due to the high number of mutations in the spike protein.
“However, it’s too early for definitive conclusions; more data and analyses are still required.”
Therefore, Dr Papadopoulos recommended looking out for these Covid signs:
- Sore throats
- Runny or blocked noses
- Coughs (with or without phlegm)
The professor recommended getting tested if you start experiencing Pirola symptoms.
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