Omicron XE variant: What is the new coronavirus variant, how transmissible is it and does it carry any new symptoms?
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The UK Health Security Agency said there were now more than 600 confirmed cases of ‘Covid XE’ in the UK, though it has not yet been confirmed to be found in the North East, and the WHO says the new variant could be the most transmissible yet.
What is the Covid XE variant?
XE is a mutation of the Omicron BA.1 (Omicron) and BA.2 (Steal Omicron) strains. According to the World Health Organisation it was first detected in the UK on January 19 and early tests believe it may be more transmissible.
It has been detected in both the UK and Thailand.
Are there any differences between the Covid XE variant and the current strains of Coronavirus?
The World Health Organisation have continued to refer to the strain as a variant of Omicron, although there are some changes in transmission levels.
"Early-day estimates indicate a community growth rate advantage of 10% as compared to BA.2, however this finding requires further confirmation." the new WHO report said.
However, Professor Susan Hopkins, Chief Medical Advisor of the UK Health Security Agency said: “XE has shown a variable growth rate and we cannot yet confirm whether it has a true growth advantage.
"So far there is not enough evidence to draw conclusions about transmissibility, severity or vaccine effectiveness.”
Are there any new symptoms of Coronavirus?
The NHS currently has a list of nine Covid-19 symptoms to look out for. These include a high temperature, a new continuous cough, a change or loss of sense of smell and taste, shortness of breath, feeling tired more than usual, aches, a sore throat, a blocked or runny nose, loss of appetite, Diarrhoea and feeling sick or being sick.
It is not yet clear if these will be adjusted in response to the new variant.
Lateral Flow Tests are no longer free in the UK, leaving those with flu-like symptoms