The Eris variant, also known as EG.5.1, has emerged as a major concern in the United Kingdom as it now constitutes one in seven new COVID-19 cases, making up 14.6% of the total infections in the country. The UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) recently reported that the variant is the second most prevalent in the UK, having gained momentum within a short period.
ERIS VARIANT SPREADS RAPIDLY: IMPACT ON COVID-19 CASES
The UKHSA flagged the variant in July 2023 after observing its increasing prevalence internationally, particularly in Asian countries. Subsequently, on July 31, 2023, EG.5.1 was officially classified as a variant (V-23JUL-01) due to its rising occurrence in the UK and continued spread globally. This designation enables health authorities to conduct in-depth analyses and characterizations of the variant.
According to the latest data, COVID-19 case rates have continued to surge, with 5.4% of 4,396 respiratory specimens reported through the Respiratory DataMart System identified as COVID-19 cases. This represents a notable increase from the previous report, where 3.7% of 4,403 specimens were positive for the virus.
UKHSA RAISES ALARM
Dr. Mary Ramsay, Head of Immunisation at UKHSA, expressed concern over the rise in COVID-19 cases and noted a slight increase in hospital admission rates, particularly among the elderly. However, she reassured the public that overall hospital admission levels remain low, and there has not been a significant surge in intensive care unit (ICU) admissions.
PRECAUTIONS FOR PUBLIC HEALTH: UKHSA’S RECOMMENDATIONS
To combat the spread of the Eris variant and protect public health, health authorities emphasize the importance of regular and thorough hand washing as a preventive measure against COVID-19 and other respiratory illnesses. They also urge individuals with symptoms of respiratory illnesses to avoid close contact with others whenever possible.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) has been closely monitoring the EG.5.1 variant since its emergence just over two weeks ago. WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus highlighted the significance of maintaining vigilance, even among vaccinated and previously infected individuals, to prevent potential surges in cases.
As the UK continues to grapple with the rapid spread of the Eris variant, health authorities and experts remain vigilant, closely monitoring the situation and providing necessary guidance to the public to limit its transmission. Heightened awareness and adherence to recommended precautions are crucial to safeguarding public health in the face of this evolving challenge.