WE SUSPECTED it was here before, but now we know. The latest spotlighted Covid-19 variant called XE has been spotted here and will likely be circulating, albeit at low levels at this point.
The timing comes as we emerge from the latest wave of Covid-19, with a drop in infections and hospitalization boding well for the coming months.
So will this be a major setback and what do we know about this variant so far?
XE is a hybrid of two Omicron strains that have already made a name for themselves here.
It’s BA.1, which arrived here late last year, and BA.2, which has supplanted it in recent months. Both spread very easily and the hybrid version is potentially about 10 percent more transmissible than BA.2.
Scientists say XE is known as a recombinant variant, created when one strain absorbs genetic material from another.
These recombinants have happened before.
One case was sequenced in Ireland and is related to travel.
Sequencing is a form of in-depth analysis of the virus, which signals it’s here and can indicate how strong it is.
It is expected to circulate in small amounts here, with the BA.2 strain still being dominant. There have been about 2,000 cases in the UK, but it was first found there in mid-January.
So his journey was slow enough. It has also been found in other European countries and in India.
hell you know
While there is still much to be learned about this new variant, there is some consolation in knowing that it hails from the Omicron family.
We already know that Omicron has proven to be less severe.
Vaccines lag behind over time when it comes to protecting people from contracting the virus. However, people who have been vaccinated and refreshed are well protected against becoming seriously ill in the event of infection.
XE still poses a risk to unvaccinated individuals.
The emergence of another form of variant underscores the need for updated vaccines that can provide broader protection.
These are expected in summer and autumn.
Current vaccines are still based on the original 2020 Wuhan strain. Hundreds of thousands of people in this country who are eligible for a booster shot have yet to receive one.
The World Health Organization (WHO) has announced that it will monitor this variant closely.
It has not declared it a variant of concern.
Early estimates, based on preliminary data, suggest it has a growth rate advantage of about 10 percent compared to BA.2, it said. If the 10 percent growth rate is confirmed, this variant would be 1.1 times more transferrable.
Prof Luke O Neill today spoke positively about antiviral drugs that can be given early to those at risk of contracting the virus.
However, he said more needs to be known about it, pointing out that it has three additional mutations that need to be looked at closely.
The good news is that the signs continue to point to this wave being on the wane for now.
Today’s figures show that the positivity rate in people who choose to have an HSE PCR test has dropped to below 19 percent, with a seven-day positivity rate of 22.7 percent. This compares to a positivity rate of nearly 50 percent at the end of March.
This does not take into account positive antigen home tests and there is still a significant amount of Covid-19 circulating.
The number of patients with Covid-19 in intensive care fell to 44 today, from 57 last Thursday. However, the total number of patients with Covid-19 in hospital rose slightly to 750 from 742 on Sunday.
https://www.independent.ie/irish-news/health/there-is-a-new-covid-xe-variant-how-worried-should-we-be-41566025.html There is a new Covid-XE variant. How concerned should we be?