New Covid variant EG.5.1, dubbed Eris, is currently driving up cases in the UK.
The descendant of Omicron was first classified as a variant in the UK on 31 July, but it now accounts for one in 10 Covid cases.
However, the Arcturus variant still remains the most prevalent strain in the UK at the moment, according to The UK Health Security Agency.
Despite Eris not holding the prime spot, Dr Chris Papadopoulos, Principal Lecturer in Public Health, at the University of Bedfordshire urged that “vigilance is crucial”.
He said: “If case rates and, more importantly, hospitalisations increase at a rate faster than anticipated or persist longer than usual, then stronger proactive measures might be necessary.”
READ MORE New Covid variant Eris is now dominant says CDC – symptoms to look out for
The professor explained that September will be a ”pivotal month to watch”, as schools reopening will see an increase in interactions among students and staff and a rise in indoor gatherings.
He added: “Historically, an upward epidemic curve tends to plateau and decline around six to eight weeks after its onset.
“If we don’t observe this trend with the Eris variant, especially if hospitalisation rates concurrently rise, then there will be more cause for concern.”
However, Dr Papadopoulos added that the public shouldn’t be overly worried at this time.
While the emergence of Eris is worth keeping an eye on, overall Covid rates currently “remain fairly low”.
Furthermore, the widespread vaccination efforts and improved treatment options still offer strong weapons in the fight against Covid.
Could Eris cause another wave?
Despite the overall low Covid rates, the professor added that the threat posed by the virus isn’t entirely gone.
He said: “The emergence of new variants like Eris, combined with factors like waning immunity and the majority of people being many months out from their last infection or vaccination, could potentially accelerate another wave.
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“I don’t think we are out of the woods just yet, so we need to continue to be vigilant.
“Having a strong global health infrastructure, a surveillance and tracking system of new variants as well as ongoing research on Covid, and health guidelines that the public complies with will be our best bet against another major Covid.”
What are the symptoms of the Eris variant?
While there’s currently not a specific list of symptoms linked to EG.5.1, the new variant is believed to trigger symptoms similar to Omicron.
Dr Papadopoulos said: “The most common symptoms are a runny or blocked nose, headache, fatigue (both mild and severe), sneezing, and a sore throat.
“While these symptoms overlap with other variants, they differ from the classic symptoms like shortness of breath and the loss of smell or taste.”
How to protect yourself from Eris
While the Covid jabs reduce your risk of getting seriously ill, it’s important to maintain good hygiene practices as well.
The professor also recommended “avoiding” crowded or poorly ventilated indoor areas and considering wearing a mask.
He added: “In higher-risk situations, such as public transport or healthcare settings, wearing a mask is still recommended particularly if you are vulnerable. It poses no harm to you and can significantly reduce the risk of transmitting the virus to others.”
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