A NEW strain of the coronavirus has been found in the UK and experts claim it is "fuelling the spread" in the South of the country.
With parts of the country set to be moved into a new Tier 4 lockdown, here are the official symptoms of coronavirus, which include a new persistent cough, a loss of taste and smell and a high temperature.
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Mutations are normal in viruses like Covid-19, but some have questioned if vaccine efforts could be dampened by the new strain as scientists scramble to learn more about the mutation.
Chief Medical Officer, Professor Chris Whitty said that symptoms of the new strain, which has been found in over 1,000 cases, aren't any different to the strain already circulating across the whole country.
Scientists agree that the virus affects different people in various ways and what has become clearer as the pandemic has unfolded are the signs to look out for.
The NHS lists the three main coronavirus symptoms as:
- A new, continuous cough – where you cough a lot for more than an hour, or have three or more coughing episodes in 24 hours
- Fever – where your temperature is above 37.8C
- Loss of smell or taste – this is also known as anosmia
According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), tiredness is also one of the more common symptoms of Covid-19.
The WHO lists the less common symptoms as:
- Aches and pains
- Sore throat
- A rash on skin, or discolouration of fingers or toes
It can take around five or six days from when someone is infected with the virus for symptoms to show, however in some cases it can take up to two weeks.
Some people who catch the coronavirus may also be asymptomatic – this means that they don't show any of the main symptoms.
While the above symptoms are the most common – other people have experienced a range of other symptoms and they are differ in children.
Prof Whitty said while the symptoms of the new strain are thought to be the same as others, Public Health England are still analysing the new strain in order to garner more information on its spread and how it will impact vaccine production.
The virus develops differently in people and there are others symptoms that people have displayed such as hair loss.
The condition know as telogen effluvium (TE), is when a person temporarily experiences hair loss.
What are the Covid-19 symptoms in children?
While the NHS’s three key symptoms apply to both adults and children, researchers have warned that there could be some other signs to be on the look out for in kids.
Data from King's College London's Covid Symptom Tracker app suggests that children aren't logging the "classic" adult symptoms.
Instead the most common signs reported in children include:
- Sore throat
- Loss of appetite
The data is based on analysis from 198 children who tested positive and around 15,800 negative tests.
It also found that 15 per cent of kids who test positive also present with an unusual skin rash.
The app allows parents to log symptoms on behalf of their children and the app currently has data from around 250,000 kids.
It comes after experts from the Queen's University Belfast said that diarrhoea, vomiting and abdominal cramps could also be symptoms in children to look out for.
Doctors have said that this usually occurs if a patient has recently experienced a stressful situation. TE occurs when the number of the follices in the scalp changes.
It usually affects the top of the scalp and in most cases the hair line will not recede if someone experiences TE.
Researchers have also previously found that neurological symptoms were present in 36 per cent of patients with Covid-19 in Wuhan, China – the epicentre of the pandemic.
In particular, doctors say those with severe coronavirus who are admitted to hospital often develop an acute brain condition called “ICU delirium".
MORE TO LEARN
Experts urged the public the stay calm and said that mutations of a virus like Covid-19 are to be expected.
Dr Zania Stamataki, Viral Immunologist, University of Birmingham said mutations will accumulate and lead to new virus variants, pushed by our own immune system to change or perish.
She added: “This virus doesn’t mutate as fast as influenza and, although we need to keep it under surveillance, it will not be a major undertaking to update the new vaccines when necessary in the future.
"This year has seen significant advances take place, to build the infrastructure for us to keep up with this coronavirus.”
Dr Jeremy Farrar, Director of Wellcome added that there is still a lot to learn from Covid-19.
"The pressure on the virus to evolve is increased by the fact that so many millions of people have now been infected.
"Most of the mutations will not be significant or cause for concern, but some may give the virus an evolutionary advantage which may lead to higher transmission or mean it is more harmful."
The Health Secretary Matt Hancock told MPs the variant may be fuelling the “faster spread” in South East England.
London, parts of Essex and Hertfordshire have already been moved into Tier 3 to cope with the “very sharp, exponential rises” in cases.
The numbers of cases linked with the latest mutation are growing "rapidly", Mr Hancock said, as he urged everyone to stick to the Covid restrictions.
Government scientists at PHE's Porton Down lab are analysing the strain "right now", Mr Hancock said.
It has been named VUI – 202012/01 – the first variant under investigation in December.
In a statement, Mr Hancock said: “Over the last few days, thanks to our world-class genomic capability in the UK, we have identified a new variant of coronavirus."
He told the Commons: “Initial analysis suggests that this variant is growing faster than the existing variants.
“We’ve currently identified over 1,000 cases with this variant predominantly in the South of England although cases have been identified in nearly 60 different local authority areas.
“And numbers are increasing rapidly.”
Mr Hancock said the "latest clinical advice is that it’s highly unlikely that this mutation would fail to respond to a vaccine".
The vaccine being rolled out in the NHS – from Pfizer and BioNTech – would not have been tested to see if it protects against this new strain.
But all Covid-19 jabs that have been developed focus on the same target – the spike protein on the surface of the virus.
The spike is what the virus uses to latch onto human cells, invade and replicate.
It cannot be ruled out that if a new mutation of the virus that changes this spike, it would affect the efficacy of a vaccine.
If the spike looks different in appearance, the body may not recognise it as Covid-19, and quickly mount an immune response.
Prof Wendy Barclay, head of the Department of Infectious Disease, Imperial College London, said yesterday: “This variant contains some mutations in Spike protein that is the major target of vaccines, and it will be important to establish whether they impact vaccine efficacy by performing experiments in the coming weeks.”
However, Dr Pankhania told Sky News: "I am very confident that we won't have to refashion our vaccines, because what we are looking at is a large spike protein.
"There is not information that this spike protein changes dramatically over months or years.
If the spike protein isn't really changing, but is showing minor changes, I expect our immune system not to be fooled by a new version of it, therefore old immunity should last with new immunity.
"And if that isn't the case, it still doesn't matter, we can refashion the vaccines very quickly to make spike protein pertaining to the new strain
"Don't worry about this – these things are common and these things do happen."
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