Scientists have established the subvariant carries 30 more mutations in the spike protein than the previous dominant strain, which could make it more likely to evade the immune system or be more transmissible.
However, so far there is little evidence to suggest that the Omicron spin-off is more concerning than the dozens of strains that came before.
The UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) confirmed there were 34 cases of Pirola in England, as of September 4.
Five people have been hospitalised with the strain but no deaths have been reported.
Out of the 34 cases, 28 were caused by a single outbreak at a care home in Norfolk.
The UKHSA explained that this could be “an early indicator” that the variant may be sufficiently transmissible to have an effect in close-contact settings.
Volk said: “As both a pathologist and a mom, I can’t stress enough how vital it is to address any new COVID-19 variants, like Pirola, with caution.
“With most kids now in school, we need to make sure they are vaccinated.
“If they have chronic conditions like asthma for example, it might be a good idea to have them wear a mask, at least while indoors, and to pay attention to their hygiene.
“As a physician, I can’t stress enough how important it is to wash those hands.
“Something as simple as that can really make a difference in keeping all the Covid variants at bay.”
The professor added that every new Covid variant is a “potential cause for concern”.
“The main problem is that some of these new variants may not be included in the newest vaccines,” she added.
Fortunately, Moderna’s new updated Covid boosters to target the XBB.1.5 subvariant, known as Kraken, are expected to work well against the Pirola as well, according to the company’s statement.
The jabs, which have now been approved by the US Food and Drug Administration, are expected to be made available later this week.
What are the symptoms of Pirola?
Because the number of Pirola cases remains low, there’s currently no specific list of symptoms linked to the Omicron spin-off.
However, the professor recommended looking out for the following signs:
- Loss of taste or smell,
- Muscle aches.
In a previous interview with Express.co.uk, Dr Chris Papadopoulos, Principal Lecturer in Public Health at the University of Bedfordshire, also shared symptoms like sore throat, runny nose, headaches and cough could appear.
Volk added that “it’s more important than ever” to get tested if you’re feeling sick.