New coronavirus variants have reached the UK and there are increasing concerns over them spreading as the winter weather kicks in. The Eris and Pirola strains have been making headlines, and medical advice is to get the vaccine booster if you are eligible.
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Dr Sir Frank Atherton has spoken out about the potential dangers of the BA.2.86 variant, also known as Pirola, and explained where you are most likely to get contaminated. We’ll also look into tests and whether or not they are still effective in detecting the virus.
The potential dangers of Pirola
Wales’ chief medical officer Dr Sir Frank Atherton spoke to BBC Radio Wales last month about the Pirola variant. He explained that medical experts have been ‘watching [Priola] very carefully over recent weeks’:
It is a global phenomenon, and it appears to be a mutation from the Omicron lineage of Covid that caused us some issues last winter.
Dr Atherton went on to explain why this variant - which has been detected in both England and Scotland so far - is causing concern:
The worrying thing is that it may be able to transmit more easily.
According to the doctor, the places you are most likely to catch coronavirus include care homes, prisons and hospitals. Thankfully, Dr Atherton believes thatthe vaccine will be effective in limiting the spread of Covid-19 this winter. He therefore urges those who are eligible to ‘go and get it’.
Do at-home tests detect the new variant?
Gabriela Brewer, who has run the London Covid Testingcentre since February 2020, has confirmed that ‘lateral flow/antigen/rapid test devices can detect old and new variants’:
But at the same time we noticed that lately these devices are very sensitive to any type of symptom and not just Covid, but also influenza.
Brewer points out that lateral flow tests are not as accurate as the PCR type that was used during the pandemic. Here’s her advice about them:
It’s a good and easy way to find out if there’s anything wrong. At the same time it could be just a flu so I would advise to back it up with a PCR.
Covid-19 lateral flow tests are no longer free for most people on the NHS, but you may be eligible if you have a health condition or work in healthcare or in a hospice.
If you want to take a test, you can buy them at a pharmacy or online, and Brewer explains that any you have left in a drawer somewhere will still work when detecting Covid-19, even if you have a new variant.
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