‘Eris’, New COVID Strain Sweeps Through US, UK

‘Eris’, New COVID Strain Sweeps Through US, UK

The World Health Organisation, WHO, has classified the EG.5 coronavirus, COVID, strain dubbed ‘Eris’ and circulating in the United States, US, and the United Kingdom, UK, as a ‘variant of interest’.

However, ‘Eris’, a highly-infectious variant, is mild and does not pose more of a threat to public health than other versions of the virus, the WHO said.

Eris has quickly become dominant in America — accounting for one in five infections — and is driving the first rise in cases and hospitalisations this year.

The Centre for Disease Control and Prevention, CDC, has a slightly different classification system, and it has designated Eris a variant ‘under monitoring’ and not one of ‘interest’ or ‘concern’.

Meanwhile, hospitalisations from Covid in the US have risen 12 percent between the week ending July 15 and the week ending July 22, Covid rates remain at historic lows.

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Recent deaths have also remained static and are at their lowest levels since Covid emerged, at around 500 per week.

For comparison, at the peak of the US’ pandemic in January 2022, hospitalisations were as high as 150,674. This time last year, they were just over 44,000.

In the first week of July, 7.5 percent of Covid cases were due to EG.5. Now, 17.3 percent of cases are.

Experts have said that Eris is one of the quickest growing variants across the world, which could be due to a ‘slightly beneficial mutation’ which means it is spreading fastest than its relatives.

It has also been detected in China, South Korea, Japan and Canada, among other countries.

“Collectively, available evidence does not suggest that EG.5 has additional public health risks relative to the other currently circulating Omicron descendent lineages,” the WHO said in a risk evaluation.

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A more comprehensive evaluation of the risk posed by Eris (EG.5) was needed, it added.

COVID-19 has killed more than 6.9 million people globally, with more than 768 million confirmed cases since the virus emerged.

WHO declared the outbreak a pandemic in March 2020 and ended the global emergency status for COVID-19 in May this year.

Maria Van Kerkhove, the WHO’s technical lead on COVID-19, said Eris had an increased transmissibility but was not more severe than other Omicron variants.

“We don’t detect a change in severity of Eris (EG.5) compared to other sublineages of Omicron that have been in circulation since late 2021,” she said.

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Director General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus deplored that many countries were not reporting COVID-19 data to WHO.

He said that only 11% had reported hospitalisations and ICU admissions related to the virus.

In response, WHO issued a set of standing recommendations for COVID, in which it urged countries to continue reporting COVID data, particularly mortality data, morbidity data, and to continue to offer vaccination.

Van Kerkhove said that the absence of data from many countries was hindering efforts to fight the virus.

“About a year ago, we were in a much better situation to either anticipate or act or be more agile,” she said.

“And now the delay in our ability to do that is growing. And our ability to do this is declining.”

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