Explained: What Is EG.5.1? New Covid-19 Variant Nicknamed ‘Eris’ Rapidly Spreading In The UK


Eris Covid-19 Variant: A new Covid-19 variant called EG.5.1, identified in July 2023, is rapidly spreading in the United Kingdom (UK). EG.5.1, nicknamed Eris, is responsible for one in seven cases in the UK, media reports said, citing the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA). 

On July 3, 2023, EG.5.1 was first raised as a signal in monitoring. This was done as part of horizon scanning due to increasing reports internationally, especially in Asia. According to the Cambridge Dictionary, horizon scanning is the activity of trying to understand what is likely to occur or change in the future, especially what new technologies or risks are likely to come up. 

On July 31, 2023, EG.5.1 was raised from a signal in monitoring to a variant temporarily called V-23JUL-01, the UKHSA said on its website. This is because the number of genomes of EG.5.1 in the UK data was increasing. The variant also showed continued growth internationally. As of July 27, 2023, 11.8 per cent of UK sequences, since the week beginning July 10, 2023, have been classified as EG.5.1.

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According to the UKHSA, EG.5.1 is a sub-lineage of XBB. 

As of July 19, 2023, the World Health Organization (WHO) has classified EG.5.1 as a variant under monitoring. 

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According to a PTI report, EG.5.1 accounts for 14.6 per cent of cases, as suggested by the latest data. 

Now, the second most prevalent variant in the UK is EG.5.1. The variant is increasing quickly in frequency, and must be watched carefully even if it is not expected to cause a large wave, evolutionary biologist T Ryan Gregory wrote on X. This probably means that the symptoms are no different from other Omicron variants.

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He also wrote that it is an immune-escaping variant. 

Quoting Dr Mary Ramsay, UKHSA’s Head of Immunisation, the PTI report said there has been a small rise in hospital admission rates in most age groups, particularly among the elderly. She also said that overall levels of admission still remain extremely low, and there is currently no increase in ICU admissions. 

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The UKHSA has recommended people to stay away from others if they have symptoms of a respiratory illness. 

Quoting Professor Azeem Majeed, the head of primary care and public health at Imperial College London, a report by The Independent said he that EG.5.1 is a version of the Omicron variant that appeared in the UK at the end of 2021, and that it is important to monitor it to see how it impacts the number of infections, hospital admissions, and deaths. 

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According to Gregory, since EG.5.1 is a descendant of Hyperion, which is XBB.1.9, vaccine boosters are likely to work better on the variant.

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