Eris variant of coronavirus causing COVID continues to dominate as hospitalizations and ICU visits rise, WHO says


 The EG.5 variant of COVID-19 continues to be the most prevalent of the three variants of interest, or VOIs, being monitored by the World Health Organization, accounting for 33.6% of sequences submitted to a central database in the week through Sept. 10, up from 25.9% four weeks earlier.

The variant, which has been dubbed Eris, following the Greek-alphabet designation used for other variants, is still understood to be of low additional public health risk globally, aligning with the risks posed by other circulating VOIs. Those are XBB.1.5 and XBB.1.6, both of which are decreasing in prevalence globally, the WHO said in its latest epidemiological update published early Monday.

The update came as the Nobel Prize in medicine was awarded to two scientists whose work enabled creation of mRNA vaccines against COVID-19.

The WHO currently has seven variant under monitoring, or VUMs, a lesser designation than VOIs.

As has been the case for months now, the agency warned that with countries greatly scaling back testing and sequencing, “it is harder to estimate the severity impact of SARS-CoV-2 variants with mutations that potentially confer higher transmissibility.

“There are currently no reported laboratory or epidemiological reports indicating any association between VOIs/VUMs and increased disease
severity.”

But that may be because “low and unrepresentative levels of SARS-CoV-2 genomic surveillance” are obscuring the picture.

The WHO recently moved to a four-week schedule for its updates, transitioning away from a weekly one as it transitions its surveillance of the disease to long-term prevention, control and management, and away from an emergency response.

But the WHO has repeatedly cautioned that COVID remains a major threat and urged countries not to dismantle their infrastructure but to sustain early warning, surveillance and reporting; to continue to track new variants; and to offer early clinical care and vaccines, especially to high-risk patient groups.

See also: Merck’s COVID antiviral may be linked to virus mutations, study finds

The latest update finds cases continuing to fall — at least based on the information it is receiving — but hospitalizations and intensive care unit admissions are both increasing. In the 28-day period through Sept. 17, the WHO recorded a total of 95,999 hospitalizations and 985 new ICU visits. That’s up 42% and 12% respectively from the previous 28-day period.

The WHO noted it did not receive data from some countries, which does not mean they have no hospitalizations. It cited as an example the fact that it did not get any data from countries in the East Mediterranean Region, which includes Cyprus, Greece, Lebanon, Egypt, Turkey, Syrian Arab Republic, Israel, Libya, Jordan, the U.A.E., Iran, Iraq, Bahrain, Oman, Afghanistan, Kuwait, Qatar, Djibouti and the State of Palestine.

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