WHO declares Eris a Covid 'variant of interest' as strain takes hold in US

Global health agency says risk 'Eris' poses is low but it may cause rise in cases globally

New Covid variant detected in the US

New Covid variant detected in the US
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The World Health Organisation on Wednesday announced it was monitoring a new Covid-19 “variant of interest” that has become dominant in the US.

“WHO continues to assess the risk of Covid-19 to global public health as high,” the agency's director-general, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, said in a briefing.

“The virus continues to circulate in all countries, it continues to kill and it continues to change.”

He added that the WHO is currently tracking several variants, including EG.5, which has been nicknamed “Eris”.

The health agency ended the global Covid-19 health emergency in May.

The WHO has published a risk assessment for Eris, deeming it “low at the global level” but warned it “may cause a rise in case incidence and become dominant in some countries or even globally”.

The WHO said it is especially prevalent in China, the US, South Korea and Japan.

The new variant is now the most dominant variant in the US, data from the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention showed.

The US health agency has not been tracking case numbers since the national health emergency ended in May, but its data showed a 12.5 per cent rise in hospital admissions last week.

A national wastewater database run by Biobot Analytics indicated a slight rise of Covid-19 cases in all US regions occurring since early July.

While Americans have access to vaccines, there is concern over low acceptance of the updated and reformulated booster dose unveiled last winter. For those who did get vaccinated, their protection may be waning.

Elderly and immunocompromised people are the most at risk from Covid-19, and anyone who becomes ill is at risk of developing long Covid.

Updated: August 10, 2023, 5:52 AM