Norfolk care home: New variant BA.2.86 behind Covid outbreak with 28 infected - what is it & symptoms

A new Covid variant is behind 28 cases at Norfolk care home, it has been confirmed.
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A new Covid variant currently spreading in England is behind an outbreak at a care home in Norfolk, UK health officials have confirmed. The UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) said 34 confirmed cases of BA.2.86 had been identified in England as of September 4, with 28 cases were from a single outbreak at the care home. No deaths have been reported so far.

However, UKHSA said it is “too early” to draw conclusions on whether the current variant is more aggressive or serious than past variants as there is currently not enough data to conclude what the extent of the transmission might be.

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Norfolk County Council has been offering infection advice and support to the care home where there has been an outbreak. Staff and residents were asked to have tests when an unusually high number of people became unwell, the health officials said.

Positive samples were then sent for lab analysis, where BA.2.86 was confirmed in the majority of samples. The UKHSA said this is “an early indicator” that it may be “sufficiently transmissible to have impact in close contact settings. This variant has been detected in a number of countries globally.

Dr Renu Bindra, Incident Director, UKHSA said: “While BA.2.86 has a significant number of mutations to the viral genome compared to other currently circulating COVID-19 variants, the data so far is too limited to draw firm conclusions about the impact this will have on the transmissibility, severity or immune escape properties of the virus.

“UKHSA scientists are working with international partners to culture the samples and analyse the evidence as it becomes available. However, it is likely to be some time before we have enough data to make a confident assessment.

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“Specialists from UKHSA have been working with Norfolk County Council to offer infection control advice and support following a confirmed outbreak of BA.2.86 in a care home.

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“It is clear that there is some degree of widespread community transmission, both in the UK and globally, and we are working to ascertain the full extent of this. In the meantime, it remains vital that all those eligible come forward to receive their autumn vaccine as soon as it is offered to them.”

A new Covid variant currently spreading in England is behind an outbreak at a care home in Norfolk, UK health officials have confirmed. A new Covid variant currently spreading in England is behind an outbreak at a care home in Norfolk, UK health officials have confirmed.
A new Covid variant currently spreading in England is behind an outbreak at a care home in Norfolk, UK health officials have confirmed.

In the wake of the new variant, the government recently announced that the vaccine rollout would be earlier than planned on Monday, September 11 as a precautionary measure and people eligible for a booster jab this autumn are encouraged to come forward.

What is BA.2.86?

According to TODAY.com, BA.2.86, which health experts dubbed “Pirola” on social media, was first detected in late July. It appears to have descended from the omicron BA.2 sublineage, which caused surges of the virus in early 2022, Andrew Pekosz, Ph.D., virologist at Johns Hopkins University said.

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He said: “The critical thing about this variant (BA.2.86) is that it has a whole host of mutations compared to some of the omicron variants that emerged about two years ago. It represents a highly mutated form of SARS-CoV-2.

The adult covid and flu vaccination programme, which was brought forward based on the latest expert advice following the emergence of a new covid variant, will prioritise those at greatest risk.The adult covid and flu vaccination programme, which was brought forward based on the latest expert advice following the emergence of a new covid variant, will prioritise those at greatest risk.
The adult covid and flu vaccination programme, which was brought forward based on the latest expert advice following the emergence of a new covid variant, will prioritise those at greatest risk.

According to him, this means, BA.2.86 looks very different from the prevailing omicron XBB subvariants circulating.

What are the symptoms of BA.2.86?

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There is currently no data on symptoms associated with infection due to its small case numbers. There is also no evidence that this variant is causing more severe illness, but this may change as additional scientific data comes in.

Common symptoms of other COVID-19 variants and subvariants include:

  • Cough
  • Sore throat
  • Runny nose
  • Sneezing
  • Fatigue
  • Headache
  • Muscle aches
  • Altered sense of smell

According to reports, existing tests and medications used to treat COVID-19 “appear to be effective with this variant.”

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