On Wednesday, the National Department of Health confirmed the detection of the new COVID-19 variant named “Eris” in a sample collected from Gauteng. In response, the department took the opportunity to reinforce the importance of accessible vaccines at public healthcare facilities. The World Health Organisation (WHO) has classified the Eris variant as presenting a low risk to the public. However, the department cautioned against complacency, highlighting the evolving nature of the virus through mutations and emphasising that the current low severity status may remain the same as reported by SA News.
Eris, also known as EG.5, has been designated by WHO as a variant of interest (VOI), a subset of the Omicron lineage originating in November 2021. The prevalence of EG.5 has shown a consistent increase, with data from over 7,000 sequences shared across 51 countries as of August 7, 2023. The variant was initially identified on February 17, 2023, and classified as a variant under monitoring (VUM) on July 19, 2023.
Among the EG.5 sequences, China contributes the most significant portion, followed by the United States, Korea, Japan, Canada, Australia, Singapore, the United Kingdom, France, Portugal, and Spain. Despite the rising prevalence, WHO maintains that the public health risk associated with EG.5 remains low on a global scale, aligning with the risk levels of other circulating variants of interest, including XBB.1.16.
Although EG.5 exhibits increased prevalence, growth advantage, and immune escape properties, no reported changes in disease severity have been observed thus far. While some countries like Japan and the Republic of Korea have witnessed concurrent upticks in EG.5 prevalence and COVID-19 hospitalisations (albeit lower than previous waves), no causal links have been established between these hospitalisations and the EG.5 variant.
Nevertheless, due to its growth advantage and immune escape attributes, WHO suggests that EG.5 could potentially contribute to an escalation in case incidence and establish dominance in certain countries or even globally. This reinforces the need for continued vigilance and public health measures to monitor and respond to the evolving landscape of COVID-19 variants.
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Photo: Facebook / @South African Government News