As the new COVID variant ‘Eris’ emerges in Maharashtra, questions arise about India’s level of concern. In light of declining adherence to COVID-appropriate behaviour and potential waning immunity, experts emphasize caution.
The novel Covid variant EG.5.1, also known as ‘Eris,’ which has contributed to a surge in Covid cases in the UK, has also shown a mild increase in Covid cases in Maharashtra, India. Although the Omicron variant was first identified in May and didn’t significantly impact the subsequent months of June and July, recent data from the state health department indicates a rise in cases from 70 at the end of July to 115 on August 6, according to a report by TOI. Eris, the new COVID strain, has led to an uptick in hospitalizations among the elderly in the UK. While there’s no need for panic, it is crucial to closely monitor the situation. The rise in cases might be attributed to diminishing immunity from prior infections or vaccinations, emphasizing the importance of booster shots in combating the virus.
‘India’s Vigilance is Vital Amid Diminishing Immunity’
The apprehension regarding novel COVID-19 strains revolves around various elements, encompassing factors such as their transmissibility, severity, and the effectiveness of vaccines and treatments targeting them. Given the natural mutability of viruses, the emergence of new strains is a possibility. The latest strain, EG5.1 or Eris, falls into this category and is being closely observed by the WHO. India must exercise caution due to the decline in COVID-appropriate behaviour and potential waning immunity from vaccinations. An unanticipated outbreak could have severe consequences,” warns Dr Ravi Shekhar Jha, Director & HOD-Pulmonology at Fortis Escorts Hospital, Faridabad.
Having originated in the United Kingdom, the recent EG5.1 strain has exhibited only a limited number of cases in Mumbai. As there haven’t been any noticeable increases in positivity rates or case surges, the impact of this strain on India might be limited,” explains Dr Kuldeep Kumar Grover, Head of Critical Care & Pulmonology at CK Birla Hospital, Gurgaon.
Symptoms Associated with Eris or EG5.1
“The symptoms resemble those of previous variants, including cough, cold, fever, throat discomfort, and chest tightness. However, in immunocompromised individuals and susceptible individuals, it can result in fatal ARDS. Additionally, it appears to be more contagious than its predecessors,” adds Dr Jha.
Typically, individuals who are infected might encounter milder symptoms of COVID-19, as this variant stems from the Omicron lineage. While rapid transmission characterizes the spread of this strain, its visibility might be lower. With a significant portion of the population having received double vaccinations, coupled with hybrid immunity, the rate of infection spread could remain minimal, potentially leading to fewer hospitalizations,” says Dr Grover.
Remaining watchful is of utmost importance, coupled with faithfully adhering to established hygiene measures such as frequent handwashing and wearing masks while in public environments. These measures not only reduce the risk of COVID-19 but also safeguard against other viral and bacterial infections. The current cases in Maharashtra may not be of major concern, but given the current flu season and the prevalence of fever due to other causes like malaria, typhoid, and dengue, the potential for missed COVID cases exists. We must remain cautious if we observe sudden spikes in fever cases without a clear cause,” advises Dr Jha.
Preventive Measures for Covid Avoidance in India
Emphasizing a well-balanced diet, upholding hygiene, staying current with necessary vaccinations or flu shots, and consistently practising COVID-appropriate behaviour – encompassing mask-wearing, steering clear of crowded spaces, and thorough sanitization. – which includes wearing masks, avoiding crowded areas, and proper sanitization – are crucial steps. These actions collectively contribute to safeguarding public health,” underscores Dr Grover.
While the new strain hasn’t significantly escalated case numbers, “the public must remain vigilant and adhere to safety precautions, even if this variant doesn’t appear to be exceptionally contagious,” according to Dr Grover.”