Insights into the novel coronavirus variant 'Eris': Symptoms, Transmission Rate, and More

A novel variant of the coronavirus is emerging throughout the United States. Referred to as "Eris," this variant originates from XBB, a subvariant of Omicron, which also gave rise to the "kraken" variant last winter.

Initially, known as EG.5, Eris was believed to account for less than 1% of COVID-19 cases in the US by the end of April, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). However, the CDC now estimates that it constitutes 17.3% of new COVID-19 cases in the country.

In the words of John Swartzberg, an infectious disease expert and professor emeritus at the University of California, Berkeley's School of Public Health, Eris began its spread slowly but is now progressively outcompeting its predecessors.

The name "Eris" was chosen in reference to the Greek goddess of strife and was suggested by evolutionary biologist T. Ryan Gregory. This naming approach aligns with the World Health Organization's recommendation to employ simple Greek alphabet labels for coronavirus variants.

Despite its rapid transmission, Eris does not appear to induce more severe illness compared to other variants, and the symptoms of COVID-19 remain akin to those caused by other strains.

Eris has currently established itself as the predominant coronavirus strain in the US. Its emergence dates back to February and is derived from the Omicron subvariant XBB. However, its prevalence notably increased in July, doubling its share of total cases.

The reasons for Eris's increased prevalence are not yet fully understood, but its substantial surge prompted the World Health Organization to elevate its classification from a "variant under monitoring" to a "variant of interest." This shift signifies an elevated risk to global public health.

A recent WHO report highlights that due to its genetic attributes, immune escape features, and growth rate estimates, EG.5 could potentially spread worldwide and contribute to a surge in cases.

Despite being more transmissible than its counterparts, there is no current evidence that Eris is more virulent or leads to more severe illness, according to Swartzberg. Nonetheless, understanding of Eris is still in its early stages, and further research is necessary to definitively ascertain its effects.

Presently, the symptoms associated with Eris closely resemble those of other coronavirus strains, with loss of taste or smell, cough, fever, chills, shortness of breath, fatigue, body aches, and headaches being common. Those particularly at risk include older individuals, those with compromised immune systems, and those with chronic illnesses.

Although Eris might exhibit higher contagiousness, it does not appear to be more lethal than other strains. Notably, Eris has not led to more deaths compared to the XBB strain of Omicron.

Nonetheless, the CDC reported a 12.5% increase in COVID-19-related hospitalizations by the end of July.

To combat the Eris variant, pharmaceutical companies Pfizer, Moderna, and Novavax are developing a new coronavirus booster aimed specifically at protecting against XBB subvariants, including Eris. These vaccines are anticipated to be accessible in October and are expected to be highly effective.

For the time being, experts strongly recommend staying up-to-date with COVID-19 boosters. Only 43% of American adults aged over 65 are current with their COVID-19 vaccinations, particularly concerning given the heightened vulnerability of older individuals to severe infection.

Furthermore, individuals are advised to wear N95 masks and practice social distancing indoors whenever feasible.



Image by Freepik

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