Covid new variant BA.2.86 more dangerous than Eris, but is it a threat for India?
By Emily Hagan | Published on Oct 18, 2023
While the pandemic may no longer be a threat, Covid-19 continues to persist and evolve. The latest challenge comes in the form of a new variant known as BA.2.86. This variant has been identified in countries such as the UK, China, Israel, Denmark, and the United States. The World Health Organization (WHO) has classified it as a “variant under monitoring” due to its numerous mutations, closely tracking its impact. However, the true extent of its danger remains uncertain.
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BA.2.86: A Closer Look at the New Variant
Following the Eris variant’s spread in the United Kingdom, the BA.2.86 variant has emerged as the latest strain of the SARS-CoV-2 virus, responsible for causing Covid-19. Initially detected in Denmark in 2022, it has since been found in several countries worldwide. According to global health authorities, this sub-variant carries multiple mutations.
Dr. Charu Dutt Arora, an Infectious Disease Specialist at AmeriHealth, Asian Hospital in Faridabad, points out that this new variant exhibits significant changes in its antigenic and spike structures. These changes potentially increase its ability to bind to ACE2 receptors and escape immunity.
How Does BA.2.86 Compare to the Eris Variant?
Dr. Tribhuvan Gulati, a Lead Consultant in Diabetes, Obesity, and Internal Medicine at the CK Birla Hospital in Delhi, cautions against prematurely declaring the BA.2.86 variant as more infectious or dangerous than Eris. The number of reported cases is still relatively low, making it difficult to draw definitive conclusions. Additionally, the detected cases have not shown indications of increased severity or infectivity.
Recognizing the Symptoms of BA.2.86
Symptoms associated with the BA.2.86 variant resemble those of the flu and other Covid-19 variants. Be vigilant if you experience any of the following:
- Cold symptoms
- Shortness of breath
- Loss of taste and smell
- Sore throat
- Loss of appetite
Assessing the Threat to India
India has faced various Covid-19 variants over the past three years, prompting concerned experts to view the new BA.2.86 variant as a potential threat. Nevertheless, this does not mean that we should lower our guard. Experts recommend taking necessary precautions and getting vaccinated to safeguard against any potential variant’s impact.
Dr. Gulati warns that international travel, without appropriate measures to curb Covid-19 surges, could pose a major threat to India. Traveling increases the risk of new cases. However, Dr. Dutt emphasizes that India has successfully navigated multiple waves in recent years, with a widespread vaccination campaign. Consequently, there is no need for panic or excessive concern. Instead, we should continue to adhere to Covid-appropriate behavior, prioritize the safety of vulnerable populations, and promptly receive booster shots if eligible. These measures will help minimize hospitalizations and the severity of infections.
Protecting Yourself Against BA.2.86
While the CDC and several European countries discourage unnecessary testing for the new variant, there are still steps you can take to protect yourself. Consider the following recommendations from experts:
- Avoid unnecessary international travel, as it increases exposure to the variant.
- Wear a mask throughout your journey, especially at airports and during flights.
- Only remove your mask when eating or drinking; otherwise, keep it on at all times.
- Consult a doctor if you experience flu-like symptoms and seek timely treatment.
- Maintain a healthy diet and exercise regularly to strengthen your immune system.
By staying informed and following these guidelines, you can safeguard your health in the face of the BA.2.86 variant. Remember, prevention and precaution are key in overcoming the challenges posed by the ever-evolving Covid-19 virus.