While the pandemic is not a threat anymore, Covid-19 doesn’t seem to have slowed down. The ever-evolving microscopic villain has reentered many countries in the form of a new variant named BA.2.86. The cases of this variant have been increasing in the UK, China, Israel, Denmark and the United States. The World Health Organisation (WHO) has designated the Covid-19 variant as a ‘variant under monitoring’ because of the many mutations it carries. This means that the global health authority is closely tracking the variant and will upgrade it to a ‘variant of concern’ if there is enough evidence. So far, the impact of this variant remains uncertain.
BA.2.86: New Covid-19 variant detected
After Eris which has been spreading in the United Kingdom, a new Covid-19 variant BA.2.86 has taken over the world. As per the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), this is a new sub-variant of the Omicron variant of SARS-CoV-2 that causes the coronavirus disease. It was first identified in 2022 in Denmark, after which it has been found in several countries. As per global health authorities, this sub-variant has several mutations.
Dr Charu Dutt Arora, Infectious Disease Specialist, Consultant Physician, AmeriHealth, Asian Hospital, Faridabad, says, “There is a massive change in antigenic and spike structures of this variant that can increase the affinity towards ACE2 receptors and escape immunity.”
Is the new Covid variant more BA.2.86 dangerous than Eris?
Dr Tribhuvan Gulati, Lead Consultant, Diabetes, Obesity, and Internal Medicine at the CK Birla Hospital, Delhi, says it is too early to say if the variant is more infectious or dangerous than the Eris variant because the cases that have come are still not that much that we can comment on it. Plus, the cases that have been detected are not very serious, and it doesn’t show any signs of being infectious or dangerous.
What are the symptoms of the new Covid variant BA.2.86?
Just like the other variants of Covid-19, the symptoms of this variant are similar to that of the flu. So, be on the lookout if you experience any of the following symptoms:
- Shortness of breath
- Loss of taste and smell
- Sore throat
- Loss of appetite
New COVID variant: Is it a threat to India?
India has fought against several variants in a span of three years, another variant should be a matter of concern say the experts. However, that doesn’t mean that you should keep your guard down. Experts say that you should take proper precautions and get vaccinated if you haven’t already to safeguard yourself against any possible COVID variants that could affect you.
Dr Gulati says the new variant can be a major threat to India if there is international travel without taking proper measures to curb the surge of Covid. Travelling can also cause a spike in the number of cases.
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While there is always a chance of getting the infection, Dr Dutt highlights that India has witnessed multiple waves in the past three years, and we have a mass vaccination drive. So, we don’t need to take this as a threat or panic. What we must do is keep following COVID-appropriate behaviour, keep vulnerable populations safe, and take immediate boosters if not done yet. This will help in minimising the hospitalisation and severity of infections.
How to protect yourself from the new Covid variant BA.2.86?
CDC, the US, and a lot of European countries have recommended against unnecessary testing because they are saying that the new variant does not pose of threat. While doctors around the world have recommended people avoid unnecessary testing, there are some measures you can take to keep yourself safe. Here are some measures that can help you protect yourself from the new Covid variant B.2.86 as suggested by the experts:
- Avoid unnecessary international travel as it can expose you to the variant.
- Wear a mask while travelling, especially at the airport and during the flight.
- Take off the mask only when you are eating or drinking, otherwise, always keep the mask on.
- Meet a doctor in case you notice any flu-like symptoms and get timely treatment.
- Eat a healthy diet and exercise every day to strengthen your immune system.