Eris the latest Covid-19 variant of interest, say experts

Face masks became a familiar sight with the advent of Covid-19.

Face masks became a familiar sight with the advent of Covid-19.

Published Aug 18, 2023


Durban — The World Health Organization (WHO) has classified the new Covid-19 variant EG.5, also known as Eris, as a variant of interest.

This has led to South Africa’s Department of Health urging people to get vaccinated. Departmental spokesperson Foster Mohale confirmed that a sample taken in Gauteng had tested positive for Eris.

WHO’s Dr Maria van Kerkhove, an infectious disease epidemiologist, said Eris was one of the sub-lineages of Omicron that was in circulation. She said in terms of its behaviour, it had an increased growth rate, as expected of all of the sub-lineages that were emerging.

“We do not detect a change in severity of Eris compared to other sub-lineages of Omicron that have been in circulation since late 2021,” she said.

Van Kerkhove said this was a variant under monitoring.

“We need to ensure that the sequencing continues. Countries should continue sharing publicly available databases so that our technical advisory group for virus evolution can monitor, assess and conduct risk evaluations,” she said.

WHO said there had been a steady increase in this variant’s prevalence, with over 7000 sequences shared from 51 countries as of August 7.

EG.5 was first reported on February 17 and designated a variant under monitoring on July 19.

“While EG.5 has shown increased prevalence, growth advantage, and immune escape properties, there have been no reported changes in disease severity to date,” said WHO.

The largest portion of EG.5 sequences, according to the organisation, are from China, followed by the US, Korea, Japan, Canada, Australia, Singapore, the UK, France, Portugal and Spain.

Mohale said that the variant being low risk did not mean that we should lower our guard, because the virus mutated.

“We are calling on people, especially the elderly and those living with comorbidities, to get the jab,” he said.

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