A new sub-variant of the Omicron COVID variant, known as EG.5.1 or Eris, is currently spreading rapidly in the UK.
It is now the second most prevalent variant in the country, making up about one in seven cases.
The Zoe Health Study, which estimates figures for UK Covid infections, predicted 785,980 cases on 27 July compared to 606,656 on 4 July – a jump of nearly 30% in less than 4 weeks.
The latest data suggests that the Eris strain now accounts for 14.6% of Covid cases in the UK.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) data claims EG.5 makes up 17.4% of infections as of 23 July, a “notable rise” compared to June. The WHO has designated EG.5.1 as a “variant of interest,” which means that it is being monitored closely. However, the WHO has also said that there is no need to panic, as there is no evidence that EG.5.1 is more dangerous than other variants.
Is Eris a strain of Omicron?
EG.5.1 (Eris) is a descendant of the Omicron variant, which was first detected in South Africa in late-2021 before becoming widespread in the UK.
It has a number of mutations that make it more transmissible than previous variants, but there is no evidence that it causes more severe disease.
According to the ZOE Health Study, the five most common symptoms of Omicron are:
- Runny nose
- Sore throat
Experts predict a surge in September as the school year recommences. The autumn also means cooler weather and more time indoors, where infection can spread more easily than outside.
Does the vaccine work on new strains?
The best way to protect yourself from EG.5.1 and any other Covid strain is to be vaccinated and boosted.
Vaccinations and boosters have been proven to help to reduce the risk of infection, severe illness, and hospitalisation. There is no indication that the vaccine does not work on newer strains.
The European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) and the European Medicines Agency (EMA) issued a joint statement on COVID-19 vaccines this summer:
“Currently authorised vaccines continue to be effective at preventing hospitalisation, severe disease and death due to COVID-19.”
However, they also included a warning that vaccines may need updating:
“…protection against the virus declines over time as new SARS-CoV-2 variants emerge.
“In line with the outcome of recent meetings of international regulators and the World Health Organisation (WHO), EMA’s Emergency Task Force recommends updating vaccines to target XBB strains (a subgroup of Omicron), which have become dominant in Europe and other parts of the world.”
In the meantime, the best protection for UK citizens is to take advantage of any vaccinations or boosters that you are eligible for, in order to keep protection up to date.
Many Brits will realise that their vaccinations are wearing off and they do not meet the criteria for boosters, which are based on age and health conditions.
However, simple, practical COVID-19 prevention measures are universally beneficial and can help to reduce the risk of infection:
- Wearing a mask when with other people
- Practise social distancing
- Wash your hands frequently.
Eris EG.5.1 key facts
- It is not clear how much more transmissible EG.5.1 is than other Omicron sub-variants.
- There is no evidence that EG.5.1 evades the protection of vaccines.
- EG.5.1 is likely to be more common in the coming months, but it is not expected to cause a major wave of illness.
What do I do if I have coronavirus?
There is no ‘cure’ for coronavirus, but cold/flu remedies can be helpful in bringing some relief from the symptoms.
Testing ended in 2022 and you don’t need to report it to the authorities.
If you have any concerns about UK Eris or any other variant of coronavirus, you should talk to your doctor. Those in The Smart Clinics’ medical membership scheme have ready access to our private GPs. If you’re concerned about any aspect of your health or symptoms, then we can arrange a telephone call, video call or appointment with a doctor. It will put your mind at ease and give you practical advice on what you can do. Our team are on hand to give you the latest medical information, whatever your concerns may be.
If you are experiencing severe symptoms – e.g. breathing difficulties or dangerously high temperature, then it’s best to seek medical care as quickly as possible. Depending on severity, you could call NHS 111 or even 999 if appropriate.
The Smart Clinics
Private GPs, London
The Smart Clinics is best known for its unique membership based private GP service with access to a friendly team of experienced doctors, which entitles individuals, families and corporate members to unlimited GP access for a monthly fee. Private dentistry is also available as an optional extra and available in their Chelsea clinic.
For more information contact us on [email protected] or call 020 7052 0070.