Health officials have warned of a new strain of the novel coronavirus called Eris, announcing 644 new cases over the past week, a 50% increase from the previous week.
It has also been associated with outbreaks in hospitals.
However, there is no evidence of severe infection and the government is not planning any public health restrictions.
Dr Colm Henry, HSE’s Chief Clinical Officer, told RTÉ’s Morning Ireland that there was no spike in intensive care admissions due to the variant, but that it was due to an increase in community-acquired infections in recent weeks.
He said it’s normal for the virus to mutate, calling Eris a subspecies of Omicron already seen in hospitals.
Mutations will replace existing variants of the virus, he said.
“What we are currently seeing is EG.5, a variant of a known variant of Omicron that is more contagious and has been steadily causing community infections in recent weeks. ‘ said Dr. Henry.
“Not only here, but also internationally, we are currently a significant part of the increase in hospital activity due to COVID-19,” he said.
He added that there is currently no evidence that Ellis causes more lethal or more serious illness.
“The WHO has classified this subvariant as a variant of interest, because it may indicate the absence of more severe disease, the increased number of admissions to the intensive care unit, the health system “It meant increased surveillance on all Member States to make sure they weren’t under pressure,” he said.
“But so far there is no evidence of that, and based on our experience so far, we know that we have much stronger immunity to both natural infection and vaccination, and that should benefit against the surge in cases,” Dr. Henry added. “We are seeing a downward trend in hospital admissions in the community and certainly have not yet seen a surge in admissions to intensive care units.” .
Dr Henry added that people who are unwell should stay at home, especially if they work in the health sector, and advised those who were vulnerable to get vaccinated.
He said Ellis “if it turns out to be a more serious disease, contagion would be a major problem for people, vulnerable people and the health system.”
“If it mutated into a susceptible but not severe variant, community transmission would spike, and if enough community infections were to occur, some of the susceptible people would be hospitalized. What are we seeing now,” he added.
But so far, there have been no reports of surges in hospitalizations or conversions to intensive care, he said.
Winter is a yearly concern about sickness, and last year saw a spike in COVID-19 infections, with particularly high numbers of flu and respiratory syncytial virus infections.
This has put health systems around the world under extraordinary pressure, he said.
Plans are being made for the winter season to reduce pressure on the health system, including strengthening cooperation between communities and hospital services, while also targeting people who: It said it will launch a new coronavirus vaccination program in the fall. Most vulnerable and at highest risk of serious illness.
A booster vaccine will be available after the end of September for people over 50, people over 5 with a well-developed immune system, and people with medical conditions that put them at high risk of serious illness from the new coronavirus, he said. said it was going to be 19 people and medical workers.
He added that boosters are given in parallel with flu shots.
He said there was no reason for the vaccine to be less effective against Ellis.
“However, the vaccine we plan to use this fall season is under evaluation by the EMA, and that evaluation will be completed by the end of August,” said Dr Henry.
“And our hope and expectation is that the vaccine we are going to use will be effective in preventing severe illness against COVID-19,” he said.
“And it’s important to highlight that the vaccines we’ve used so far are still highly effective in preventing serious illness in vaccine recipients,” he added.
wearing a mask
Healthcare workers are still advised to wear masks when working with confirmed or suspected COVID-19 patients.
“If a local risk assessment determines that the level of community-acquired transmission is particularly high, or that the risk of COVID-19 is high, all health-care settings, such as hospitals and nursing homes, are within their jurisdiction,” Henry said. is in,’ he said. -19 for your specific setup. “
“What was discontinued was the universal use of masks in all medical settings because they no longer made sense,” he said.
He said hospitals with rising numbers of COVID-19 cases should conduct their own local risk assessments, washing their hands and encouraging sick health workers to stay home to reduce the risk of transmitting the virus to others. He said it was necessary to emphasize measures to protect people from infection, such as advising them to wait. someone else.
“And, of course, maximizing the effectiveness and coverage of the vaccine among healthcare workers for this fall,” he added.
He said things have changed since 2020, when the first cases of COVID-19 were confirmed. He said this was because of the presence of a “very immunologically immature population”, lack of natural immunity or immunity from the COVID-19 vaccine, and “high levels of infection.” Transition from infection to critical illness, hospitalization, intensive care, and death. “
“Today, this shift, the link between infection and serious illness, is much weaker because natural infection or vaccination has increased the population’s immunity,” he said.