NEW maps reveal how a new Covid variant dubbed ‘Orthrus’ has spread through the UK.
The charts below show how the variant, named CH1.1, has rippled across the country and now accounts for 23.3 per cent of cases, data from the Sanger Institute states.
At the start of the month Independent Sage said CH.1.1 represented a small number of cases.
At the beginning of December, it was responsible for just over one per cent of infections.
But now, Orthrus accounts for close to 100 per cent of genomic tests in some boroughs includingWoking, Bradford, Oxford, Reading and Seven Oaks.
However, the data is only based on a small amount of samples so is not a true reflection of the scale of the spread.
CH.1.1 is an offshoot of BA.2.75, which was first detected in May 2022 in India.
Maps also show how the so-called Kraken variant has spread, with cases of XBB.1.5 having increased in the US in recent months.
It is now responsible for just 3.6 per cent of infections across England, the Sanger data shows.
At present in the UK, BQ.1 and its sub lineages are the dominant strains.
A risk assessment conducted by UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) together with academic partners found that CH.1.1 and XBB.1.5 are currently the variants most likely to take over from BQ.1 as the next dominant variant in the UK.
This is unless further novel variants arise, experts said.
However it’s important to note that at this time, neither Orthrus or Kraken have been dubbed as variants of concern by the UKHSA.
The Kraken variant – an off-shoot of Omicron – was first detected in India in August and has since been found in 25 countries.
The ‘Kraken’ nickname appears to have first been suggested on Twitter by evolutionary biologist Prof T. Ryan Gregory.
“This year, some of us decided that we needed nicknames for variants worth watching, given that the WHO wasn’t giving any new names under their system,” he wrote.
“We’ve been using mythological creature names for variants that are being discussed outside of technical discussions.”
Dr Meera Chand, Director of Clinical and Emerging Infections, UKHSA said: “Through our genomic surveillance we continue to see evolution of variants in the Omicron family.
“UKHSA is constantly monitoring the situation and working to understand the implications for public health.
“Vaccination remains our best defence against future COVID-19 waves, so it is still as important as ever that people come forward and take up all the doses for which they are eligible as soon as possible.”
While these variants are not yet dominant, experts have said that those in the US coming down with the Kraken strain have experienced cold and flu like symptoms.
Speaking at a press conference Dr Allison Arwady, the Chicago Department of Public Health commissioner, said: “We’re seeing more people actually just have cold-like symptoms.
“But are less likely to have those flu-like, really feeling very sick [symptoms such as] the high fevers.”
Typical cold symptoms include a runny nose, sore throat, cough and congestion, according to the NHS.
DO THE DOUBLE
The Sun has been urging Brits to protect against both Covid and flu, as part of its “Do the Double” campaign.
The Omicron strain has already been found to be milder than others that came before it.
And the mammoth rollout of vaccines across the UK has meant many already have some level of protection from the bug.
However, the World Health Organisation (WHO) has said XBB.1.5 is “the most transmissible sub-variant which has been detected yet”.
The new version of the bug has gained additional mutations which make it better at evading immunity and therefore “more infectious”, Prof Francois Balloux of the UCL Genetics Institute has said.
He added: “It is widely anticipated to go up in frequency globally, and may cause a sizeable fraction of cases globally in the near future.
“As such, it could push up case numbers over the coming weeks in the UK.”
However, Prof Jonathan Ball a virologist at the University of Nottingham said there was “no evidence it’s more dangerous” than current strains.
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