Health experts are sounding the alarm as the United Kingdom confronts a resurgence of New COVID wave cases, with warnings that this latest wave could be among the most severe since the introduction of vaccines. A formidable strain of the virus is reportedly spreading throughout the UK, posing an increased threat as immunity levels decline.

In the seven days leading up to December 9, coronavirus cases have surged, with 5,975 individuals testing positive in England, signifying a substantial 38.6% rise compared to the preceding week. Specialists in immune systems are raising concerns that the current wave may lead to more severe infections than witnessed in previous outbreaks.

The BBC News has reported that diminishing antibody levels and waning immunity might be contributing to the heightened severity of infections.

Professor Eleanor Riley, an immunologist at the University of Edinburgh, shared her personal experience, revealing a “horrid” bout of COVID that surpassed expectations in its severity. She noted, “People’s antibody levels against COVID are probably as low now as they have been since the vaccine was first introduced. Now, because antibodies are lower, a higher dose [of the virus] is getting through and causing a more severe bout of disease.”

Professor Peter Openshaw from Imperial College London emphasised the significant impact of widespread vaccination, particularly the rapid rollout of jabs, which made a “huge difference” in controlling earlier waves.

However, he expressed concern about the reduced availability of booster vaccines this winter, suggesting that many individuals could face a “pretty nasty illness” that may incapacitate them for days or even weeks.

He added, “I’m also hearing of people having nasty bouts of COVID, who are otherwise young and fit. It’s a surprisingly devious virus, sometimes making people quite ill and occasionally leading to having ‘long COVID.'”

The warning coincides with the emergence of a new subvariant, JN.1, a form of the Pirola strain, which is reportedly becoming dominant globally. Detected first in Luxembourg in August, JN.1 has since spread to the US, UK, France, and other countries.

This subvariant carries a significant mutation, L455S, in its spike protein, along with three other mutations in non-spike proteins. Research suggests that the acquisition of the L455F mutation is associated with increased viral transmissibility and immune evasion capabilities.

Dr Chris Papadopoulos, Principal Lecturer in Public Health at the University of Bedfordshire, has urged vigilance, highlighting potential signs of the JN.1 COVID variant, including fever, coughing, tiredness, nasal congestion, runny nose, diarrhoea, and headaches.

As the situation evolves, health authorities are intensifying efforts to understand and address the challenges posed by this new wave, urging the public to prioritise vaccination and adhere to preventive measures.

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Woodley BioReg

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