by Smitha Mundasad for RNZ and BBC
The World Health Organization has declared a new subvariant of the novel coronavirus called EG.5 (unofficially named ‘Eris’) a variant to watch, prompting an increase in cases worldwide. China is asking all countries to monitor it.
But the organization said there was no evidence that it caused more severe disease than other currently circulating variants, and that the risk to public health was low.
A New Zealand epidemiologist said the new variant of the new coronavirus didn’t raise any particular concern, but did indicate that the virus continues to evolve.
EG.5 is the predominant variant in the United States.
already found in New Zealand. According to the Environmental Science Research Institute (ESR) report released on August 4, The report said the number of cases was “increasing slowly, but not at a rate high enough to cause a significant surge in new cases”.
Again, XBB is the most prominent variant.
Epidemiologist Michael Baker said new variants and subvariants are to be expected.
“A new subspecies or subspecies that gains dominance begins to take over the previous one, but that dominance stems from the fact that it is able to evade some of the immunity.
“So it’s natural selection, and it’s at work right before our eyes.”
Officials are watching EG.5’s impact abroad, he said.
“What we have seen abroad since the emergence of this new variant is that there appears to be a slight increase in the number of cases in the US and Europe, an effect that could also be seen in New Zealand. would be one of
“At this stage we are not seeing any such impact because we are actually at the lowest point since Omicron arrived in New Zealand.”
Baker said the new variants don’t cause any particular concern, but they do indicate that the virus continues to evolve.
“This is a reminder that this virus is not static, it continues to evolve.
“And it is quite possible that in the future we will see further leaps in its evolution that will have a significant impact on the number of cases. That means that vaccines, for example, really need to be revised.”
What is EG.5 and why is it called Eris?
Since its first appearance, Covid has mutated or changed shape and become progressively different. New gene versions that keep appearing are called variants.
EG.5 is another variant of the Omicron variant of Covid. According to WHO, the disease was first identified in February 2023 and the number of cases is steadily increasing.
She is called “Eris” on social media, which is also the name of a goddess in Greek mythology.
This informal nickname could follow the WHO practice of assigning “simple and easy-to-say labels” to major variations using Greek letters.
The WHO nomenclature system was born after experts agreed that scientific names are difficult to remember and prone to misinformation. It also wanted to stop the subspecies from being named after the country where they were first discovered.
In its latest assessment, WHO includes EG.5 and its very closely related subvariants such as 5G.5.1.
According to the UK Health and Safety Agency (UKHSA), 5G.5.1 currently accounts for about 1 in 7 Covid cases found in hospital labs.
The agency’s deputy director, Dr Meera Chand, said the emergence of the new variant was “not unexpected”.
He added, “EG.5.1 will be designated a variant on 31 July 2023 due to its continued growth internationally and its presence in the UK, so that it can be monitored through the routine monitoring process. became,” he said.
According to estimates released by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, EG.5 cases are also increasing in the United States, narrowly outstripping other prevalent ohmic subvariants.
Is Eris more dangerous?
Based on the available evidence, WHO officials said there was no suggestion that this subvariant caused more severe disease and did not pose a higher risk than other variants currently under focus. ing.
Some tests suggest that the virus can evade the immune system more easily than some circulating variants, but this has not led to severe illness in people.
The UK has seen a slight increase in hospitalizations in recent weeks, especially among those aged 85 and over, but experts say the numbers are still lower than in previous waves. There has been no increase in the number of severely ill people in intensive care.
Experts around the world continue to monitor and assess the impact of subvariants, especially as schools and universities reopen.
Where is EG.5 spread?
According to WHO: 51 countries have reported infections As of August 7th, this includes China, USA, South Korea, Japan, Canada, Australia, Singapore, UK, France, Portugal and Spain.
What are your symptoms?
Experts say there is no evidence to suggest it causes new symptoms of the new coronavirus.
Are you sick with COVID-19, a bad cold, or other illness?
Covid symptoms include:
- persistent cough
- changes in taste or smell
- sore throat
How can I protect myself?
As with other COVID-19 variants, the risk of serious illness remains highest in the elderly and those with significant underlying medical conditions.
Health officials said vaccination remains “the best defense against upcoming waves of COVID-19, so it is important, as ever, that people get all the targeted vaccines as early as possible.” It’s important,” he said.
WHO said it continues to assess the impact of variants on vaccine performance to inform decisions about updating vaccine composition.
Health experts recommend that if you have symptoms of respiratory illness, wash your hands regularly and stay away from others as much as possible.
For more information on COVID-19 vaccination in New Zealand, please visit: found here.
* Many of these articles were originally published. BBC, RNZ report added to include New Zealand information.