New COVID variant

The new COVID strain affecting the world and Ferris

Despite COVID-19 causing a shutdown in March 2020, it’s still a worldly issue, and a new variant is spreading dating back to 2021.

The new COVID-19 strain is called EG.5, or Eris as an informal term.

EG.5 was responsible for just under 30% of COVID-19 cases in the United States by the end of last month. Toward the end of the summer, about a 14% upward trend led to more COVID-19 related hospitalizations. Even though the uptick in cases and hospitalizations was significantly lower during previous years, this new COVID-19 variant is still making people sick and go to the hospital.

Public health associate professor Emmanuel Jadhav has a learning objective he teaches in one of his courses as to why it can be important to relate COVID-19 to Ferris as well as to the entire world.

“In the PUBH-210 global health course I teach, one of the learning objectives is about the relationship between globalization and global health,” Jadhav said.  “Anything that impacts one area of the world, will eventually have some intended or unintended implication for another area.  We must be intentional to be alert about trends in communicable diseases.”

Christy Bourdlais, Senior NP & clinic manager of the Health Center Operations, stated that they’re offering COVID-19 testing at the Birkam Health Center. The tests received would indicate whether that person tests positive or negative, but the specific variant from a COVID-19 test would have to be determined during a laboratory test.

“We currently are offering antigen testing (rapid), which would not differentiate between strains,” said Bourdlais. “We have the ability to do PRC testing at the lab, but it is the lab that decides to test for a variant of a virus, and we would not know the results of that information. We would know if that patient tested positive or negative.  The lab is who collects data like that and will advise state and local health departments that they are seeing this specific variant in the community.”

Even though students have to go to a lab to discover the variant of their test, COVID-19, according to Jadhav, has not been a big issue for the areas within Mecosta County.

“The DHD#10 COVID-19 dashboard for Mecosta County, in which the university resides, does not reflect an alarming trend,” Jadhav said. “However, winter does bring its own onset of diseases, so we should be mindful and alert to COVID-symptomology.”

As of now, according to the Michigan Gov. website, Mecosta County has a total of under 9,500 confirmed cases and under 115 COVID-19 related deaths.  These are probable cases that have been tracked down ever since the new variant began and as early as April 5, 2020. Jadhav mentioned there’s no alarming trend because there are other counties in the state that have over 100,000 confirmed cases. Due to not many counties exceeding alarming COVID-19 numbers, Michigan has a case facility rating of 1.4% across the United States.

The new variant is likely to spread, as it’s inevitable. If cases uptick and more students get sick, then the university has the potential to move towards either masking or virtual learning to help bring cases down.

“The university follows recommendations from the local and state health departments and the CDC,” Bourdlais said.  “If these entities recommend masking again, then the University may follow suit. The majority of the Ferris community has been exposed to this virus in the last four years, no matter what variant is circulating.  With that said, I do not believe we will get to a point of ‘shut-downs’ and back to only virtual learning if necessary.”

Anyone can take the precautions of washing their hands more often, as well as staying home, limiting contact with others and wearing a mask in confined areas if they feel they’re developing COVID-19 symptoms.