Skip to content

Latest on COVID Variant as Outbreak Spreads

“We have more tools than ever to prevent the worst outcomes from COVID-19," says the CDC.

New COVID-19 mutations continue to evolve, with the latest Pirola variant detected in several U.S. states. Originating in Denmark, this heavily mutated XBB.1.5 omicron subvariant has experts watching closely. Despite initial concerns, recent studies suggest its severity may be less than anticipated. Concurrently, the U.S. witnesses a spike in COVID-19 hospitalizations, attributed mainly to the EG.5 mutation. The CDC urges vaccinations, foreseeing a potential "tripledemic" with influenza and RSV this winter. Read on to see how to stay vigilant, with this reporting from TMX.

Introduction to the New Variant


New cases of the COVID-19 variant BA.2.86 have appeared in at least 10 U.S. states, according to the global virus database GISAID, but it isn't driving the current increases in hospitalizations, the CDC said.

Origin and Spread of Pirola


The new COVID-19 mutation, an XBB.1.5 omicron subvariant nicknamed "Pirola," was first reported in Denmark in July, and has since spread to several countries. In the U.S., it has been reported in Colorado, Maryland, Michigan, New York, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Texas, Virginia, and Washington so far.

Characteristics of the Pirola Variant


There have been numerous mutations of the SARS-CoV-2 virus at the heart of the COVID-19 pandemic, and some are worse than others. Pirola is heavily mutated, drawing comparisons to the original Omicron variant, but the CDC said recent "reassuring" research indicates the strain may not be as contagious as initially feared, or as severe.

Current Hospitalization Trends


The CDC says hospitalizations due to COVID-19 have been on the rise in recent weeks, and are expected to continue rising. Although Pirola is gaining a foothold in the U.S., the plurality of infections are currently being caused by EG.5, a mutation of the XBB omicron variant, according to the CDC. It isn't yet known if Pirola will become a dominant strain.

Latest Data and Predictions

Brunette adult woman is lying fever on the bed in hospital indoor

The agency reported 18,871 hospital admissions for COVID-19 infections in the week ending Sept. 2, the last week for which data were available, up 8.7% from the week before, following weeks of double-digit increases. The agency reported that deaths due to COVID-19 in the week ending Sept. 9 were up 4.5% from the week before. In the latest forecast published Sept. 11, the agency predicted that hospital admissions will increase, with potentially up to 9,100 daily admissions reported on Oct. 9.

Concerns for the Upcoming Winter


The agency also warned of another potential respiratory "tripledemic" straining hospitals this winter if COVID, influenza, and RSV all circulate and peak at the same time.

Vaccination Recommendations and Updates

coronavirus covid-19 vaccine in hands of pharmacuetical bio research scientist in vaccine development laboratory, coronavirus covid-19 vaccine development program, selective focused

"Making sure that you are up to date on the vaccines recommended for you is an important strategy to prevent severe disease and protect yourself and others around you. Higher levels of vaccination across the population will also help reduce the number of hospitalizations and risk of hospital strain," the CDC said in its outlook. The agency recommended that everyone ages 6 months and older get an updated COVID-19 booster vaccine. The Food and Drug Administration last week announced the approval of updated COVID-19 boosters from Pfizer and Moderna for emergency use. The updated monovalent vaccines target the XBB.1.5 omicron subvariant and related lineages, but vaccine manufacturers say it will offer protection against all variants currently in circulation. Moderna said its updated vaccine protects against newer variants including Pirola. Pfizer, meanwhile, said in a recent statement that pre-clinical data show its updated Omicron XBB.1.5-adapted vaccine "generates an improved response against multiple XBB-related sublineages, including XBB.1.5, XBB.1.16, XBB.2.3, and EG.5.1 (Eris)."

CDC's Message to the Public


"We have more tools than ever to prevent the worst outcomes from COVID-19. CDC is now recommending updated COVID-19 vaccination for everyone 6 months and older to better protect you and your loved ones," CDC Director Mandy Cohen said in a statement.

Symptoms and Clinical Presentation

Tired woman lying on pillow in bed.

According to NYC-based lung health expert Dr. Susannah Hills, "I've seen Covid present in many different ways – but most commonly it resembles other upper respiratory illnesses. For my patients, it generally involves a cough, runny nose, and sometimes sore throat. The message here is that you can't tell if you have Covid just by the symptoms."

Christopher Roback
Christopher Roback is an experienced news journalist specializing in political, science, and crime news. Read more