It’s been in circulation for almost three months now, potentially even longer.
Omicron XE is what is known as a “recombinant variant” which can only occur when a patient is infected with two or more variants of a virus (in this case, COVID-19) simultaneously.
Omicron XE is a combination of two different branches of Omicron – Omicron BA.1 and BA.2 (which is known colloquially as “Stealth” Omicron). This has led some outlets to brand the new strain as a “Frankenstein variant”.
The number of people currently infected with COVID-19 has risen to unprecedented levels in the UK recently. As of last week, there were 4.9 million confirmed current cases of coronavirus across the country.
Only a very small fraction of this can be attributed to Omicron XE, however – as of right now, it has 637 confirmed cases in England. Statistics for the wider UK are currently unknown.
Omicron XE is just one of several new variants that have mutated and subsequently been discovered over the past few months – an example of this is the “Deltacron” variant that was uncovered back in March of this year.
Omicron XE has been detected elsewhere in the world, including in Hong Kong and Thailand.
How contagious is this new variant?
Currently, a concrete answer to this question is unavailable, but research indicates that Omicron XE could very well be more contagious than previous strains of COVID-19.
A report stated that early tests indicate that Omicron XE has a “community growth rate advantage” of 10%, essentially meaning that it is hyopthetically easier to spread between human hosts.
However, to reiterate, the testing process is in its early stages – we will have a more exact idea of how contagious Omicron XE is after further examination has been conducted.
Scientists are monitoring the variant as of right now, working towards a breakthrough. It also currently unclear as to whether we will need an additional vaccine or booster to combat it.
What symptoms does Omicron XE have?
As with most variants of COVID-19, people are being advised to look out for any common cold-esque symptoms. Research into Omicron XE is still in its infancy, but as of now, there are no new symptoms that have been discovered.
The most common symptoms to keep an eye out for are: sneezing, a sore throat and a runny nose. You may also have a cough, but it isn’t one of Omicron XE’s most common symptoms. A cough is more likely to be connected to a different strain of COVID-19.
Other symptoms you encounter include, but are not limited to: nausea, headaches, prolonged fatigue or tiredness, difficulties with breathing, lack of appetite, stomach pains and diarrhoea. If you have any of these symptoms, it would be a good idea to take a Lateral Flow Test or a Polymerase Chain Reaction test to see if you are infected or not.