HEALTH ALERTCOVID-19

Pirola Variant Emergence, New Symptoms and Challenges in Ireland’s COVID-19 Response

PIROLA VARIANT Rapid Increase of COVID-19 Hospitalizations in Ireland


In recent weeks, Ireland has witnessed a concerning surge in COVID-19 cases as the country approaches the festive season. The focal point of this escalation is the doubling of individuals in Intensive Care Units (ICUs) with the virus over the past two weeks. The situation is placing a significant strain on Irish hospitals, especially as Christmas approaches.

RESOURCED ARTICLE Ireland Covid-19 update: Number of people in ICU with virus doubles in two weeks

Pirola Variant

As of the latest update from the Government’s Covid-19 Data Hub, the number of people in ICUs with COVID-19 in Ireland has surged, currently standing at 18 individuals. A mere two weeks ago, on December 5, this figure was at nine. This rapid increase in ICU cases reflects a broader spike in the number of patients with confirmed cases of COVID-19 being admitted to hospitals across the country.

The overall count of patients in Irish hospitals with confirmed COVID-19 cases has also seen a substantial rise. As of 8 am on Monday, December 18, there are 348 patients, up from 230 on December 5. This surge in hospitalizations is a cause for concern and underscores the challenges faced by the healthcare system in managing the current wave of infections.

Despite the rise in cases, efforts to curb the spread of the virus continue through vaccination campaigns. Over 7.9 million COVID-19 vaccines have been administered in Ireland as of December 6, with 3.8 million individuals having received both first and second doses. Vaccination remains a crucial tool in mitigating the impact of the virus and preventing severe illness.

However, the gravity of the situation is further underscored by the total number of deaths attributed to COVID-19 in Ireland, which stands at 9,366 as of November 14, the most recent available data. While vaccination has proven effective in reducing the severity of the disease, the persistently high death toll highlights the ongoing challenges posed by the virus.

Adding complexity to the situation is the emergence of the ‘Pirola’ COVID-19 variant, specifically the BA.2.86 lineage. First detected in Israel on August 13, 2023, this variant has since been identified in various countries, including Denmark, the UK, the USA, and South Africa. In Ireland, there have been 111 confirmed cases infected with BA.2.86 to date.

While the variant presents an unusually high number of mutations, health authorities, including the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the World Health Organization (WHO), currently report no evidence of increased transmissibility or impact on clinical severity. The variant is projected to account for 5-15% of currently circulating variants, and both the CDC and WHO assess the public health risk as low compared to other circulating variants.

Amidst these developments, the Health Protection Surveillance Centre (HPSC) has released information on new symptoms associated with the ‘Pirola’ variant. The variant’s symptoms, similar to those of the broader Omicron variant, include a runny nose, headache, fatigue (mild or severe), sneezing, and a sore throat, according to the ZOE Health Study. Additionally, New Scientist reports further symptoms such as diarrhea, eye irritation, and rashes.

The Health Service Executive (HSE) emphasizes the importance of recognizing symptoms and taking appropriate measures. If individuals experience symptoms, the advice is to stay at home and avoid contact with others for 48 hours after symptoms mostly or fully disappear. In the case of a positive COVID-19 test, individuals are advised to stay at home and avoid contact with others for five days from the date symptoms first appeared.

READ MORE INFORMATIVE ARTICLE Navigating the COVID-19 Pandemic,Triumphs and Trials of Science

In summary, Ireland is grappling with a significant increase in COVID-19 cases, marked by a doubling of individuals in ICUs and a surge in hospitalizations. Vaccination efforts continue, but the emergence of the ‘Pirola’ variant adds complexity to the situation. Awareness of symptoms and adherence to public health guidelines remain crucial in navigating these challenging times.

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