Portugal: Omicron subvariant drives spike in Covid-19 cases

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The latest variants have proven better at eluding vaccines and other antibody treatments than previous strains. They are also believed to be more transmissible than their predecessors owing to several new mutations in spike proteins. BA.5 is the most contagious strain on record to date, recent findings have shown. One immunologist has warned one of the key signs of the latest strain may emerge during the night.

The two subvariants now account for the majority of new cases in the UK, which rose by 20 percent last week.

The most common symptoms reported have been a runny nose, sore throat, headache, persistent cough and fatigue.

The ZOE Covid Symptom study, which asks people to self-report their symptoms, revealed less than a third of people also report fever.

Now one immunologist warned he is also seeing one symptom of the latest BA.5 sub-variant emerge at night.

“But very importantly, if you are vaccinated and you’re boosted, it doesn’t progress into severe disease is the message to keep reminding people.”

According to the UKHSA, there is currently no evidence that the new variants elicit more severe illnesses than their predecessor.

A recent study led by researchers at Columbia University Vagelos College of Physicians and Surgeons, however, found the BA.4/5 variants were at least four times more resistant in individuals who were vaccinated.

David D. Ho, Medical Director and Director of the Aaron Diamond AIDS Research Centre and Clyde’56 said: “The virus is continuing to evolve, as expected and it is not surprising that these new, more transmissible subvariants are becoming more dominant around the world.

“Understanding how currently available vaccines and antibody treatments stand up to the new subvariants is critical to developing strategies to prevent severe disease, hospitalisations and deaths – if not infection.”

Researchers have said the best way to prevent the emergence of new variants is to get vaccinated and boosted.

Scientists have consistently stressed that vaccination is the most effective tool to prevent serious illnesses from Covid infections.

They contend that the more people are fully inoculated against the virus, the less opportunity there is for the virus to spread and mutate.

The latest reports from the city of Shanghai, however, yesterday revealed that a new subvariant of Omicron has emerged, dubbed Omicron BA.5.2.1.

The discovery was disclosed by an official during a briefing on Sunday, who signalled the complications China was having keeping up with new mutations.

The vice-director of Shanghai’s health commission, Zhao Dandan, said the case was linked to an infection from overseas.

It comes as the latest figures from the UK’s Office for National Statistics show that around 2.7 million people had COVID-19 in the week ending 29 June.

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