South African variant symptoms – what is the difference to normal COVID-19?

Patrick Vallance explains ‘increased risk’ of new variant

South African Covid variant cases have been detected in the UK, spiking concerns about transmission. The local variant follows others detected in the UK in Brazil in showing altered behaviour compared to the base SARS-CoV-2. While officials hope the vaccine will suppress these variants as well, in the meantime, people may need to take extra care.

What is the difference between the South African variant and base Covid-19?

UK officials have detected a “small number” of people locally infected by the South African variant, with feared community transmission.

In response, they have launched “surge testing” efforts across five areas in England.

While concerning for the many people soon to receive tests in the post, the Department for Health and Social Care has played down concerns.

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In a statement, they suggested there was little more cause for concern than the base Covid virus.

They said: “There is currently no evidence to suggest this variant is more serious than others, or that the regulated vaccine would not protect against it.”

Researchers have so far concluded the South African variant is more infectious.

But this may be where differences from the base virus end, as they have not found divergence when it comes to symptoms.

Research suggests the new variants and initial version of the virus share symptoms.

They include:

High temperature (38C +) – people feel hot to the touch on their chest or back

A new, continuous cough – coughing a lot for more than an hour, or three or more coughing episodes in 24 hours

Loss of or change to sense of smell and taste

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Along with symptoms, it appears there is also little change in terms of vaccine reaction.

Health officials and the Prime Minister have reassured the public the vaccines remain robust in the face of the new variants.

But scientists, among them Professor Anthony Harnden, chair of the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation, said they could require editing.

He told Sky News: “The new variants abroad are a real worry – the South African and the Brazilian ones.”

“And there are hints that there will be vaccine escape but I think we’re going to have to get used to this.

“We are living in a world where coronavirus is so prevalent and naturally mutating that there are going to be new variants that pop up in all sorts of different countries.

“We may well be in a situation where we end up having to have an annual coronavirus vaccine much like we do with the flu vaccine.

“But the public want to be reassured that actually these technologies are relatively easy to edit and tweak and once we find strains that are predominant, the vaccines can be altered.”

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