New Delhi: The World Health Organization (WHO) is tracking several variants and strains of the SARS-CoV-2 virus, including EG.5, for which it published an Initial Risk Evaluation on August 9. The evaluation is based on currently available evidence about EG.5. The risk remains of a more dangerous variant emerging that could cause a sudden increase in cases and deaths, WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said in Geneva.
The WHO Director added,
Despite the improvements, the WHO continues to assess the risk of COVID-19 to global public health as high. The virus continues to circulate, kill, and change in certain countries.
The health agency had declared EG.5 and its sub-lineages, commonly known as Eris, as a ‘variant of interest’.
— World Health Organization (WHO) (@WHO) August 9, 2023
What Do We Know About EG.5 So Far?
EG.5, commonly known as Eris, is a descendant lineage of Omicron subvariant XBB.1.9.2. It carries an additional mutation in the spike protein, which SARS-CoV-2 uses to enter and infect human cells, compared to the parent subvariant. This lineage has been detected in 51 countries, including the United States, China, South Korea, and Japan, according to the initial risk evaluation.
The symptoms of EG.5 are the same as other variants, including fever, continuous cough, change in the sense of taste or smell, fatigue, runny nose and sore throat, among others. Its disease potential appears to be exactly the same as other variants’ as well, according to the report published at the John Hopkins School of Public Health.
The EG.5 lineage was first reported on February 17, 2023, and designated as a variant under monitoring (VUM) on July 19.
Around 30.6 per cent of the EG.5 sequences are from China, with 2,247 sequences. The other countries that have reported at least 100 sequences include the United States of America, the Republic of Korea, Japan, Canada, Australia, and the United Kingdom, among others.
While EG.5 has shown increased prevalence, growth advantage, and immune escape properties, there have been no reports on the severity to date. However, due to its growth advantage and immune escape characteristics, EG.5 may cause a rise in case incidence and become dominant in some countries or even globally, the initial risk evaluation stated.
WHO Guidelines For Countries
In concern to the upcoming variants and sub-lineages like EG.5, Dr Tedros issued standing recommendations for countries to manage COVID-19 cases in several major areas:
- All countries must update their national COVID-19 programmes using the WHO Strategic Preparedness and Response Plan, to prepare for the long-term sustained management of COVID.
- Countries must detect changes and trends in the coronavirus variants and strains, the disease severity and population immunity through collaborative surveillance.
- All countries should report COVID-19 data, including death and severe disease, genetic sequences, and data on vaccine effectiveness, to the WHO.
- Vaccination for COVID-19 must continue in all countries.
- Research and development (R&D) related to coronavirus must be initiated by countries, to generate more evidence on the prevention and control of the disease.
- Counties must contain measures to protect health workers and caregivers.
- Countries should continue to work towards ensuring equitable access to safe, effective, and quality-assured vaccines, tests, and treatments for COVID-19.
The WHO Director emphasised the importance of countries implementing the recommendations to protect people against the upcoming COVID-19 variants, strains and lineages. Dr. Tedros, said,
We cannot predict the future, but we can prepare for the future.
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