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New Covid strain ‘more transmissible’

A new variant of Covid-19 is “more transmissible” than previous strains of the virus, an expert has said.

The World Health Organization (WHO) on Tuesday classified the JN.1 coronavirus strain as a “variant of interest” and said current evidence shows risk to public health was low from the strain.

Kingston Mills, Professor of Experimental Immunology at Trinity College Dublin, explained that the new variant is a “sub-variant of a sub-variant of Omicron” which was first seen two winters ago.

He told RTÉ’s Drivetime: “This one is even more transmissible than previous ones and has more changes in its structure from the previous variants.

“So, it makes it more difficult for the antibodies that are generated with the vaccines to protect against it.”

However, data suggests that the latest version of the vaccine will protect against it, Prof Mills added.

He said: “I think the issue is that going forward we are going to have a series of variants emerging each year like we had with flu.

“The bottom line is that people should if they are in the vulnerable age group or medical category should get a booster vaccine now with the latest version of the Covid vaccine available.”

Prof Kingston Mills said the issue of long Covid is still real

Prof Mills said with the arrival of Omicron and its sub-variants, infections tended to become more confined to the upper respiratory tract, the throat rather than the lungs.

“It still can cause serious disease especially when it leaves the respiratory tract, and the issue of long Covid is still real and can persist for many months after clearing the infection,” he said.

The virus, he said, becomes less disease-causing but more transmissible.

“It is in the interest of the virus to keep the host alive, so that it can transmit more readily to others,” he added.

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