New covid19 variant contributes to spike in cases

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

Image courtesy CDC

The Health Ministry said variant of interest EG5.1.1 (VOI) was possibly responsible for a slight spike in covid19 cases in July and August. Six deaths were recorded in August, with none in July.

In response to questions from Newsday, the ministry said there had been a decrease in the total number of cases over the past two weeks. It said hospitalisations for the period remained at low level, with a total of 23 patients in hospitals across the parallel and hybrid healthcare systems, including the Couva Hospital.

EG5.1.1, nicknamed Eris, is the dominant strain of covid19 in the US currently, and is an omicron variant. According to an NBC News report, the VOI also could have contributed to a spike in cases in that country in June.

According to the report, director of the Center for Virology and Vaccine Research at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston Dr Dan Barouch said there is no evidence that EG.5 infections cause more severe illness than other omicron subvariants. He said it had likely evolved to be more transmissible than previous strains.

The symptoms of the VOI include fever, cough, fatigue, muscle aches and headache.

“The ministry also reminds the public, particularly the vulnerable (those with chronic diseases, the elderly, pregnant patients and the unvaccinated), that they should continue to maintain the principles and practice of good hygiene as these measures will assist in the maintenance of our low levels of transmission of covid19 and other infectious diseases.”

The ministry reminded the public that there are available vaccines for people 12 and older. It said the Pfizer vaccine will only be administered as a booster dose for children over 12 and adults, while the Sinopharm vaccine is available as both a primary and booster dose for adults only.

One batch of the Pfizer vaccines in hand will expire on September 30, while the Sinopharm vaccines expire on September 9.

Vaccines for influenza will be made available from October 2023-May 2024.