What is long Covid and what are the known symptoms?
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In a statement the UKHSA said the new variants had been “given UKHSA variant designations to facilitate continued studies”.
This means funding has been confirmed for the agency to find out more about the viruses. It described both BQ.1 and XBB and the extent of their spread so far: “BQ.1 (V-22OCT-01) is a BA.5 sub-lineage which has been designated on the basis of rapid growth. So far, there have been 717 V-22OCT-01 sequences uploaded from the UK to the international GISAID database.
“XBB (V-22OCT-02) is a recombinant lineage derived from two previous Omicron sublineages. Currently there are 18 UK samples in GISAID, out of a global total of 1,086. 639 samples have been uploaded from Singapore, and it is thought that XBB may be a factor in the recent spike in cases there.”
As to whether these two variants could scupper hopes of a Covid free Christmas the UKHSA does not know.
In its statement it said: “Neither have currently been designated as variants of concern.”
The reason why it can’t be said for certain is because we do not know whether these variants are more transmissible and the types of symptoms, if there are any differences, they cause in comparison to other forms of the virus.
In the past year, the subvariants of Omicron have meant the symptoms of Covid are less distinctive than they once were and are now hard to tell apart from the flu.
On the what we do know so far, the UKHSA said: “Neutralisation studies are currently being undertaken at Oxford University.
“Overall, data show significant reductions in neutralisation against several of the newly emergent variants (BA.2.75.2, BA.2.3.20 and BJ.1), compared to BA.2, BA.4 and the dominant BA.5.”
What this means in practice, said the UKHSA is that “as immunity begins to wane, these newly emerging BA.2 variants may fuel future waves of SARS-CoV-2 infection”.
As to when that wave occurs is not yet certain, the UK is thought to be in the second half of its sixth wave of the virus as cases plateau before a drop off next month.
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