A new variant of the virus that causes Covid-19, known as Eris, could be linked to more than a third of new cases in France. The World Health Organization has designated the strain a variant of interest, but says the risk to public health is low.
Officially designated by the scientific name EG.5, the new strain has been detected in more than 50 countries.
It is becoming more prevalent in the US, China, the UK and now France, where it was identified in 34 percent of new positive samples submitted for genetic sequencing, according to global virus database Gisaid.
First reported in February, it is an offshoot of the Omicron variant that quickly became the dominant Covid strain in late 2021.
Eris is believed to be more transmissible than other strains of the virus circulating.
But according to the WHO, which is monitoring the variant, “based on the available evidence, the public health risk posed by EG.5 is evaluated as low at the global level”.
The organisation says that Eris does not appear to cause more severe symptoms of Covid-19.
In its weekly update, the WHO said that nearly 1.5 million new Covid cases were reported worldwide from 10 July to 6 August, an 80 percent increase compared to the previous 28 days. However, the number of deaths fell by 57 percent to 2,500.
Summer holiday effect
In France, the number of people seeking hospital treatment for suspected Covid has risen in recent days.
By Wednesday, the French public health institute reported, such cases were up by 25 percent among people aged 15 to 74 compared to the precious week, by 34 percent in over-74s and by 56 percent in children under two.
The south-west region of Nouvelle-Aquitaine reported the highest number of positive PCR tests in the week to 6 August, with 789 infections.
The southern region of Occitanie (730 cases), the Ile-de-France region around Paris (689) and Provence-Alpes-Côte-d’Azur on the south coast (638) came next, though those figures do not include positive results from tests taken at home.
The spread could be linked to the summer holiday season, when people are more likely to travel and socialise, including in large crowds at festivals and other events.
“While an increase in the number of cases has been observed in all regions, most cases were reported in regions that are popular holiday destinations,” the public health institute told France Bleu.
https://www.rfi.fr/en/france/20230811-new-covid-variant-eris-takes-hold-in-france-as-holidays-help-spread-infections New Covid variant Eris takes hold in France as holidays help spread infections