‘Pretty close to measles’: Professor’s warning about new Covid variant in UK – symptoms

Omicron sub-variant discussed by infectious disease expert

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The Omicron variant, now known as BA.1, caused a tidal wave of Covid cases in the UK at the end of last year. Hopes that the wave has now crested have been dashed thanks to the emergence of Omicron BA.2 – a sublineage of the original variant. This offshoot is driving up cases and leading to a rise in hospitalisation rates across the UK.

BA.2 is significantly more transmissible than BA.1, although it is still not clear whether it causes more severe disease.

Former World Health Organisation (WHO) epidemiologist, Professor Adrian Esterman, told ABC News: “Omicron BA.2 is about 1.4 times more infectious than BA.1. The basic reproduction number (R0) for BA.1 is about 8.2, making R0 for BA.2 about 12.

“This makes it pretty close to measles, the most contagious disease we know about.”

Speaking to The BMJ, Eric Topol, professor of molecular medicine at the Scripps Research Institute in California, said: “I would attribute this to the ‘BA.2 triad’. The variant has 30 percent more transmissibility than BA.1, but spread has been further enhanced by relaxed mitigation measures and waning of vaccine immunity. It’s all intertwined and clearly going to lead to more widespread surges, including in the US.”

Professor Topol warned that this would now further prolong the pandemic and could even provide “yet another path to a new variant in the months ahead”.

Colin Angus, senior research fellow at the University of Sheffield’s school of health, also identifies BA.2 as the key factor.

He told The BMJ: “The recent rise in COVID-19 infections, which is being driven by the emergence of the more transmissible BA.2 variant of omicron, has led to increases in the number of people in hospitals in England with COVID-19 in all age groups and across all regions of the country.”

Be aware of the warning signs

Despite the rise in cases the UK government, which has already removed nearly all Covid related control measures, has also been slowly dismantling its pandemic systems and removing funding from key studies that track COVID-19, including REACT-1 (which tracks community transmission) and the ZOE covid study (which tracks symptoms).

This has raised serious concerns over the UK’s ability to respond to the virus.

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This potential oversight has prompted leading health experts such as Professor Tim Spector, of King’s College London to urge the public to take matters into their own hands and act on the warning signs of Covid.

To ascertain the most common warning signs, the professor crunched the latest data published to the ZOE Covid Study, which pools information logged by users in the Zoe Symptom Tracker app and the results from the swab testing programme.

The most common symptom currently reported is runny nose, accounting for 80 percent of all symptomatic cases, reported Prof Spector in his latest YouTube video.

The professor said “rare” symptoms such as ear ringing and feeling unusual muscle pains are also being reported.

They make up one in five symptomatic cases, he noted.

Other possible symptoms include:

  • Sneezing
  • Persistent cough
  • Hoarse voice
  • Other
  • Chills or shivers
  • Unusual joint pains
  • Fever
  • Dizzy
  • Brain fog
  • Eye soreness
  • Altered smell
  • Unusual muscle pains
  • Lower back pain
  • Swollen glands
  • Skipped meals
  • Chest pain.

You should get tested and self-isolate for five days if you encounter any of the symptoms, advised Prof Spector.

Commenting on the latest data, Prof Spector said: comments on the latest data: “Covid cases are now at the highest levels the ZOE Covid Study has ever recorded. Even more concerning is the rise in new cases in people aged over 75.

In the meantime, if you haven’t, you should roll up your sleeves and get vaccinated.

You can use the NHS booking service to book a first, second, third or booster dose of the coronavirus (COVID-19) vaccine or manage an appointment.

You can use this service if you’re registered with a GP surgery in England. You can register with a GP if you do not have one.

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