The Pirola Variant: New York City’s Latest COVID-19 Challenge


In the midst of ongoing global challenges, the emergence of a new and concerning COVID-19 variant, unofficially nicknamed “Pirola” (BA.2.86), has raised alarm bells among public health experts. This variant is causing particular concern due to its significant spike protein mutations and potential to evade prior immunity. In this blog post, we will explore what we know about the Pirola variant and the measures being taken to address it.

The Pirola Variant: A Brief Overview

The Pirola variant, BA.2.86, first came to our attention in late July when it was identified in Denmark. It made its way to the United States in August, and cases have been reported in several countries. What’s particularly troubling is that these cases seem unrelated, suggesting undetected community transmission and international spread. This raises concerns about a potential resurgence of COVID-19.

Mutation Count Raises Red Flags

One of the key reasons why Pirola has experts worried is its high number of spike protein mutations, which stands at over 30 compared to the previously dominant XBB.1.5 variant in the United States. The spike protein is crucial for the virus’s ability to enter human cells, and such a significant mutation count raises concerns about the variant’s ability to evade immunity. Dr. Scott Roberts, an infectious diseases specialist at Yale Medicine, likened this mutation count to the shift from the Delta to the Omicron variant in 2021, which caused a substantial surge in cases due to its immune evasion capabilities.

Transmission and Severity: What We Know So Far

Experts are still studying the Pirola variant to understand how transmissible it is and whether it causes more severe infections. Current evidence suggests that it may be more adept at infecting individuals who have had COVID-19 or have been vaccinated.

Preventive Measures and Vaccination

While researchers work diligently to understand Pirola better, public health officials are emphasizing the importance of continuing with the same preventive measures that have been effective throughout the pandemic: masking, testing, handwashing, and vaccination. The CDC recommends that individuals test when experiencing symptoms or after exposure. If you believe that you were exposed, wait 5 days prior to testing. An updated COVID-19 vaccine is expected to be available in the coming weeks, and experts recommend getting it. 

Mask Mandates and Ongoing Vigilance

In response to the spike in COVID-19 cases, some regions, including Upstate Medical University in Syracuse, New York, have reinstated mask mandates in clinical areas to protect patients and staff. The CDC reports a nearly 19% increase in weekly new COVID-19 hospitalizations in the U.S., highlighting the urgency of these measures. Until the new vaccines become widely available, masking remains a crucial tool for safeguarding against COVID-19, especially in clinical settings. CrowdHealth provides bulk pricing and rapid shipping on all mask products



The emergence of the Pirola variant has added a new layer of complexity to New York City’s ongoing battle against COVID-19. With its high mutation count and international presence, Pirola presents challenges that demand a vigilant response. While we await more information about its transmissibility and severity, one thing is clear: continuing to follow preventive measures and getting vaccinated remain our best defenses against this and other COVID-19 variants. Please continue to test yourselves and wear masks. 


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