A new variant of the coronavirus, EG.5, also referred to as Eris, is now causing the majority of COVID-19 cases in the United States, making it the latest concern for scientists and health professionals. Here’s a comprehensive look at what is known about EG.5 and its impact on the current pandemic situation.
Prevalence and Origin
- EG.5 accounts for about 17% of new Covid-19 cases in the US, closely followed by the XBB.1.16 lineage at 16%, as per CDC data.
- Derived from the XBB recombinant strain of the Omicron family, EG.5 represents an adaptation rather than a major evolutionary leap like the original Omicron strain.
- Beyond the US, the variant is witnessing rapid growth in countries like Ireland, France, the UK, Japan, and China.
- Compared to its predecessor, XBB.1.9.2, EG.5 has an added mutation on its spike protein at position 465. This mutation appears in about 35% of global coronavirus sequences, suggesting an evolutionary advantage.
- Another variant rising in prevalence, FL.1.5.1, also carries the 465 mutation.
- EG.5 has an offshoot, EG.5.1, which includes an additional mutation on the spike protein.
- The symptoms of EG.5, such as fatigue, fever, and dry cough, remain largely consistent with previous coronavirus variants.
- Despite the rise of EG.5, no evidence suggests it induces more severe symptoms than its predecessors. Hospitalizations, although increasing, remain relatively low.
Factors Driving the Current Uptick
- While EG.5 is prevalent, human behavior, such as indoor gatherings due to record heat, summer travel, and schools reopening, appears to drive the current rise in cases.
- Other strains like XBB.1.16 and FL.1.5.1 also contribute to the uptick.
Anticipated Responses and Treatments
- Upcoming Covid-19 boosters targeted against the XBB variant are expected to closely match circulating variants, including EG.5, promising strong protection.
- EG.5 is expected to respond well to antiviral drugs like Paxlovid and be detectable by standard at-home COVID tests.
- The FDA is set to review the new booster, and it’s projected to be available in October.
Recommendations for the Public
- High-risk groups, especially the elderly and those with underlying health conditions, should remain vigilant.
- With the new booster shot coming this fall, many are advised to consider vaccination for enhanced immunity against circulating viruses.
- If testing positive for the virus, it’s crucial to consult with a doctor immediately. Early treatment with medications like Paxlovid can reduce risks associated with severe infections.
Understanding Virus Evolution
It’s essential to understand that viruses, by their nature, mutate. Most of these mutations have little to no impact on the virus’s behavior or its effects on human health. However, occasionally, a mutation gives the virus an advantage, such as increased transmissibility or resistance to certain treatments. When this happens, it’s crucial for researchers to identify these changes early and adjust strategies accordingly.
While the rise of EG.5 brings new challenges, proactive measures such as understanding the variant, timely vaccinations, and following recommended precautions can make a difference. It remains crucial to stay informed, be prepared, and continue supporting collective efforts to combat the pandemic.
As EG.5 continues its prevalence, public health organizations worldwide are putting their best foot forward in tracking, studying, and combating this variant. Collaboration between countries is crucial in sharing data and strategies that have proven effective. Global unity in this challenging time will not only help in containing the current variant but will also prepare us better for any future strains that might emerge.