New Covid variant ‘Pirola’ behind outbreak at Norfolk care home

Dr Hilary discusses possible Covid wave

The UK is currently seeing a surge in Covid cases and a new variant, BA.2.86, could be to blame.

Dubbed Pirola, the Omicron subvariant was first detected in the UK on August 18 in a person with no recent travel history, suggesting a degree of community transmission within the country.

Now, Pirola has caused an outbreak at a care home in Norfolk.

There have been 34 confirmed cases of BA.2.86 so far, with 28 of those at the care home.

However, no deaths have been linked to the Omicron spin-off.

READ MORE A cold or Pirola – the different symptoms to spot as new Covid variant emerges

Norfolk County Council has been offering infection advice and support to the care home, the BBC reports.

Staff and residents were asked to get tested after a high number of people became unwell.

Further analysis confirmed that Pirola was behind the majority of samples from those tests.

Worryingly, this could be an early indication that the variant “may be sufficiently transmissible to have an impact in close contact settings”, according to the analysis.

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The UK Health Security Agency’s latest briefing on Covid includes an analysis on the new variant.

The health body shared that five people out of the 34 confirmed cases have needed hospital treatment.

Furthermore, the fact the cases have cropped up in different regions of the UK and seem to be unlinked suggests a community transmission.

This comes as two cases of BA.2.86 have been identified in Scotland through lab testing last week.

The Omicron spin-off carries 30 more mutations in the spike protein compared to the previous dominant variant, which could mean the variant can evade the body’s immune responses from previous infections or vaccination.

However, nothing is certain as studies into the subvariant are ongoing.

Dr Chris Papadopoulos, Principal Lecturer in Public Health at the University of Bedfordshire, previously told that the symptoms of Pirola could include:

  • Sore throat
  • Runny or blocked nose
  • Cough (with or without phlegm)
  • Headaches.

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