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Department of Health confirms one case of Covid Eris variant in Gauteng

Department of Health confirms one case of Covid Eris variant in Gauteng

The National Department of Health has confirmed that one case of the Eris variant has been isolated and identified by genomic surveillance teams in Gauteng. Eris is the first new variant of SARS-COV-2 that has been declared by the World Health Organization since Omicron in November 2021.

Genomic surveillance teams have detected one case of the Covid Eris variant in a sample from Gauteng that was taken in June 2023, the spokesperson for the National Department of Health, Foster Mohale, confirmed on Wednesday, 16 August.

The World Health Organization (WHO) declared Eris, a combination of two subvariants of the Omicron variant, as a new variant of interest last week. The WHO said there is a significant difference between the Omicron variant and Eris. Most of the mutations in Eris that are not present in Omicron are on the virus’s spike protein, which suggests that it may be more contagious.

However, Dr Maria van Kerkhove, technical lead of the WHO’s Covid-19 response team, emphasised that at present there is not enough available evidence to indicate that it will cause more severe disease.

Read more in Daily Maverick: ‘Spike in infections’: WHO declares new Covid variant – but no evidence yet of increase in severity

Mohale said that based on available public evidence, the risk posed by the Eris variant remains low and people who have been vaccinated will still be protected.

According to the latest genomic surveillance report produced by the National Institute for Communicable Diseases (NICD), Omicron continues to be the dominant variant but the numbers of cases are low.

XBB.1.9, one of the subvariants identified as having formed Eris, along with XBB.1.5, was detected in sequences in South Africa in March, April, May and June. 

According to the WHO, Eris has been detected in samples in a number of countries with the largest number being from China (2,247), the US (1,356), the Republic of Korea (1,040), Japan (814) and the UK (150).

The European Centre for Disease Control’s latest report, dated 11 August, has indicated increased transmission from low levels in recent weeks and an increased rate of infection in general.

But the report noted that the figures on Eris’ severity are limited.

Of the 11 European countries with data on hospital or ICU admissions/occupancy included in the recent report, two reported an increasing trend in at least one of these indicators over the previous week. DM

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