Scientists are concerned about a new variant of Covid that has the ability to evade vaccines – and it appears to be spreading rapidly.
Variant Orthrus – the name of a two-headed dog in Greek mythology – comes just a few weeks after the last worrying variant called Kraken worried the boffins.
But this variant, officially labelled as CH 1.1, appears to have a similar mutation to that of the deadly Delta Coronavirus strain that is proving tricky for current vaccines to stop.
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It has so far been found in 66 countries, including Thailand, India, China, Australia and the United Kingdom, and was first spotted about a month ago.
The UK's Independent Sage group said of both Orthrus and Kraken: “In the UK, the Omicron sub variant BQ.1.1 became dominant at the end of 2022, but now two new Omicron sub variants, CH.1.1 and XBB.1.5 have emerged, and are likely to replace it.
“The fastest growth – but still representing a small number of cases – is occurring with the XBB1.5 variant, probably imported from the USA, which appears both more transmissible and more immune evasive.
“Cases and hospital admissions are rising rapidly now in the North-Eastern USA, where XBB.1.5 is dominant.
“This is likely again due to differences in both the nature and extent of vaccine and infection acquired immunity between these populations, yet there is no guarantee that this will remain the case going forward.”
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The UK currently has – as of Thursday (February 2) – a seven-day average of just 2,770 positive Covid cases, with 19,391 new positive cases reported in the previous 24-hour period.
In total, there have been more than 24.3 million cases since the pandemic began in March 2020 and a total of more than 217,000 deaths have been confirmed.
As of January 26, there were 7,256 people in hospital with the virus, according to official government figures.
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