Orthrus Covid variant behind quarter of UK cases — the symptoms to spot

Orthrus Covid variant behind quarter of UK cases — the symptoms to spot

A new Covid variant is said to account for nearly a quarter of cases of the virus in England.

It is a sub-lineage of the Omicron variant known as Orthrus or CH.1.1. and was first detected in November last year, according to surveillance data.

Experts warn Orthrus is the Covid variant most likely to take over from the currently dominant BQ.1, which is a sub-variant of Omicron.

According to the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) figures, since its first emergence in November the variant accounted for roughly 23.1 per cent of all Covid cases in England by January 1.

The UKHSA says data suggests it could represent 100 per cent of all cases in some areas.

Orthrus Covid variant in the UK

Orthrus is named after a mythical two-headed dog in ancient fiction that guarded a giant’s castle.

Genomic mapping from the Sanger Institute, a partly Government-funded research group, shows that Orthrus had taken in over in certain parts of England.

These include Northumberland, Bradford, Wakefield, Blackburn with Darwen, North West Leicestershire, Breckland, Central Bedfordshire, Oxford, Reading, Woking, Enfield, Havering, Sevenoaks, Crawley, and Adur.

Blackburn with Darwen has the highest percentage of cases when taking the difference between the lower estimate, 43 per cent, and the upper estimate, 100 per cent.

The first area of the UK to register Orthrus by Sanger’s modelling was Blaby, south-west Leicestershire, in the week leading to November 12.

Dr Meera Chand, UKHSA director of clinical and emerging infections, was quoted by The Independent as saying: “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 take up all the doses for which they are eligible as soon as possible.”

Symptoms of the Orthrus Covid variant

As the variant comes from a similar lineage to that of Kraken and Omicron, Doctor Allison Arwady, Chicago Department of Public Health commissioner, said early signs were “cold-like symptoms”.

Dr Arwady said these included a sore throat, runny nose, congestion and a cough.

Martin Michaelis, professor of molecular medicine at the University of Kent, agreed.

He added to FactCheck that “there is no indication” that the symptoms of XBB.1.5 are different to those caused by other Omicron sub-variants.