An expert has warned that the new strain of coronavirus HV.1 is believed to be "highly transmissible" which means it could spread quickly to Ireland.
According to data from the USA's Centres for Disease Control and Prevention the HV.1 variant currently accounts for around a quarter of all Covid infections across America and is likely to be on its way to Ireland and the UK too, the Mirror reports.
Speaking to Today.com, Dr William Schaffner, a professor of infectious diseases at Vanderbilt University Medical Centre, explained how contagious the new variant is. He said: "You can almost think of HV1 as a grandchild of Omicron. One of the characteristics of this entire Omicron family is that they are highly transmissible."
This comes after the HSE issued a warning over a rise in winter viruses and urged people to get vaccinated against flu and Covid-19 after a low vaccine uptake this year.
An autumn/winter Covid-19 vaccine is now recommended for everyone aged 50 and over, everyone over the age of five living with a long term health condition, those who are immunocompromised and all healthcare workers.
The HSE said there is an "expected imminent" rise in the flu with the peak flu season this year expected to fall between mid-December and into January.
People with long term health conditions and healthcare workers have been told that it is "particularly important" for them to avail of free vaccine services.
Dr Éamonn O’Moore, Director of National Health Protection, HSE said: "We are concerned that the uptake of the vaccines so far remains low, and that this may have a serious impact on public health in the coming weeks and months. There is no room for complacency at this point.
"Our hospitals are already feeling pressure from a significant level of RSV, particularly our paediatric services. The winter in the southern hemisphere saw very high levels of flu, and this adds to the concern about our own winter. We are already seeing early signs that flu levels are rising and we expect it to be reaching its peak from mid-December and into January. Covid-19 levels are currently stable but we are seeing people seriously ill with Covid-19, including in our ICUs now, and around half of those have not received boosters in the last six months.
"There is still time for people to get their vaccines, it takes around two weeks for the vaccines to take effect so now is the time to act."
Eight symptoms of new HV.1 Covid strain
Here are the signs of the HV.1 strain to look out for:
- Sore throat
- Congestion or stuffiness
- Runny nose
- Muscle aches
- Fever or chills
Although testing for Covid is no longer mandatory in Ireland if you test positive, the HSE recommends that you stay at home for five days and avoid contact with other people, especially vulnerable people at higher risk from Covid.