Is a new COVID variant heading your way?

A new COVID subvariant is speeding through the UK and the US, and is likely already in Australia.

It’s named EG.5.1, nicknamed Eris, after the Greek goddess of strife and discord, and was first detected in India.

The symptoms of EG.5.1 are similar to the coronavirus in general and include a cough, fever or chills, shortness of breath, fatigue, muscle or body aches, loss of taste or smell and headaches. It may also include a runny nose, dry cough and sneezing.

Eris is considered less invasive and lethal, but more infectious than recent strains.

Associate Professor Paul Griffin, an infectious disease physician and clinical microbiologist, told SBS the subvariant has likely made its way to Australia, but has not yet been officially identified due to limited testing.

Doubled in prevalence

“It has certainly increased, with an estimate that it has perhaps doubled in prevalence in the last four weeks or so globally from nearly six to 12 per cent [of cases],” he said.

“It does look like it may be becoming the dominant subvariant of Omicron in a number of countries.”

The variant is currently the most prevalent in the US, according to the Centre for Diseases Control and now accounts for 17.3 per cent of the country’s new infections.

Adrian Esterman, a professor of biostatistics and epidemiology at the University of South Australia, told SBS he expected a similar pattern to follow in Australia.

“Eris appears to have a bit of an advantage in terms of transmissibility, and it’s starting to take over,” he said.

“We’ll probably see another peak of cases coming in the next few weeks, which will be due to Eris.”

Professor K. Srinath Reddy, at the Public Health Foundation of India, told the Washington Post that there were no immediate health concerns with Eris.

“It is not increasing the number of cases in intensive care, or deaths,” he said, although it may be responsible for more hospitalisations, especially among the elderly.

“But we have to keep up our vigilance,” he added. “COVID-19 is still with us, but there’s no need to panic with this particular variant.”

Call for boosters

However, some Northern Hemisphere countries are issuing warnings ahead of their autumn/winter seasons. 

UK Health Security Agency Public Health Programmes director Dr Mary Ramsay has urged UK residents to consider another booster.

“The COVID-19 virus has not gone away and we expect to see it circulating more widely over the winter months with the numbers of people getting ill increasing,” Dr Ramsay said.

The rise in cases is being blamed on waning immunity, poor weather in the UK forcing people to mix indoors and even the popularity of the Barbie and Oppenheimer movies.

Prof. Griffin suggests the elderly and people with comorbidity factors should develop a COVID-19 plan.

“That would include how to reduce your risk, whether through vaccine or other strategies, a plan for how to get tested quickly, how to get antivirals, and how to manage medical problems at those times,” he said.

“Being prepared is going to be the main thing for the foreseeable future.”

Have you been tested for COVID this year? Have you had a booster? Why not share your experience in the comments section below?

Also read: Does nose picking increase your chance of COVID?

Written by Jan Fisher

Accomplished journalist, feature writer and sub-editor with impressive knowledge of the retirement landscape, including retirement income, issues that affect Australians planning and living in retirement, and answering YLC members' Age Pension and Centrelink questions. She has also developed a passion for travel and lifestyle writing and is fast becoming a supermarket savings 'guru'.

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