The World Health Organisation (WHO) is formally tracking a Covid version known as the “real deal.” The UN health agency has now recognised the Omicron spin-off, which has been given the placeholder name BA.X but has not yet received an official designation, as a “currently circulating variant under monitoring.”
The strain, which was discovered for the first time last month, has only been found in three cases thus far worldwide. But the list of mutations it contains worries health officials. In the UK, no cases have yet been found. But if it’s as contagious as initially thought, scientists say it’s probably already here. In order to stop the spread, some experts have urged for the restoration of face masks out of concern that it could start a new wave.
However, others have cautioned that it is way too soon to panic. Immunity levels are still very strong, and the infection has lessened in severity over time. The strain originally raised concerns earlier this week when two instances were discovered in Denmark by a well-known online virus-tracker. Only one day before, the identical lineage had been found in Israel.
Because of the variety of mutations each virus carries, virologists are confident that all three are the same virus. Scientists can determine each viral sample’s precise genetic make-up through a procedure known as “sequencing.” The portion of the virus that attaches to human cells and spreads infection, the spike protein, has more than 30 alterations, according to preliminary studies on BA.6.
Vaccines are made to target this specific component of the virus. While some of these are thought to assist the virus elude the immune system, others have unknown roles. It is yet unknown, though, whether it will be able to propagate effectively or if it will simply fade out like many other varieties with significant mutations.
Epidemiologist Dr. Maria Van Kerkhove, who is in charge of the WHO’s Covid response, issued a warning that there is very little information available on the strain. But she claimed that because of its numerous alterations, it requires monitoring. She continued, “Surveillance and sequencing are ‘critical’ to identify new variants and monitor those that have already been identified.”
Yesterday, due to a concerning cluster of mutations found in BA.X, also known as BA.2.86, scientists issued a warning. If the strain is more contagious than existing varieties, Professor Paul Hunter, a prominent infectious disease expert based at the University of East Anglia, predicted that it “probably” already exists in the UK or the US. ‘If it isn’t now, it probably will be very soon,’ he continued.
To stop the strain from spreading, several scientists have already proposed for the restoration of face coverings. Earlier this week, Oxford University-based primary care specialist Dr. Trisha Greenhalgh tweeted that “it looks like it’s once again time to MASK UP.”
The professor, who is also a member of Independent Sage, conceded that she understood “little of the detail” but urged No. 10 to implement an Australian-style Covid eradication approach early in the pandemic.
The version has not yet been formally announced by UK health officials. However, they are keeping an eye on another variation known as Eris. Health officials announced Monday that Eris, also known as EG.5.1, accounted for 25.7% of all sequenced cases in England during the week ending July 30. Bosses of the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) reported that the prevalence had increased from 14.6% a fortnight prior. Experts claim that it does not appear to be any more harmful than other strains currently in circulation, including its close relative Omicron.
To determine the prevalence of each strain, officials sequence about 240 samples from Covid tests that are positive each week. Thousands were evaluated during the pandemic’s peak. As the UK prepares to enter the autumn and winter, when the NHS is busiest, the covid hospitalisation rates are already beginning to soar, raising fears that the country is about to experience another epidemic.
The ‘Barbenheimer effect,’ which refers to the publication of Barbie and Oppenheimer, and bad weather, according to experts, may have also had a role in the surge in illnesses and decline in immunity. Beginning in October, millions of people over 65, NHS employees, and anybody else deemed high-risk will be able to receive booster shots. The UKHSA’s head of immunisation, Dr. Mary Ramsay, stated: “The most recent data show that Covid cases are on the rise.”
“We continue to advise anyone with respiratory infection symptoms to try to stay at home and away from others — especially those who are vulnerable — to help prevent the spread of the virus. Hospitalisations are rising as well, but they are still quite low.
The statistics for this week shows an uptick in ICU admissions, but they are still quite low. We will keep a careful eye on these rates. “We urge everyone who is eligible to accept the vaccine this autumn when it is offered by the NHS.” The Government has reiterated that it will never return to pandemic-era measures until a doomsday variety appears that brings the globe to a standstill, notwithstanding the rise in Covid and the appearance of new forms. According to experts, there will always be changes in the number of cases.