Despite what some people may think, the coronavirus has not disappeared. While cases have waned in recent months due to vaccination campaigns, the virus is still circulating throughout the U.S.
In the four weeks leading up to August 3rd, more than one million new cases and over 3,100 deaths were reported, according to the World Health Organization. This brings the death toll to nearly 7 million since the pandemic first started.
Recently, public health experts have turned their attention to EG.5, a new subvariant, which is becoming dominant in several countries including the U.S. and Britain.
What Do We Know About the EG.5 Coronavirus Variant?
The EG.5 coronavirus is a descendent of omicron, the most prevalent strain of the SARS-CoV-2 virus in the world. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the new variant has surpassed other omicron descendants in the U.S. and is now responsible for the majority of COVID-19 cases in the country.
In keeping with Greek nomenclature, some media outlets have nicknamed the new subvariant “Eris”. However, this name is not officially used by health experts. Rather, they have designated the variant as EG.5, which includes the similar EG.5.1. strain, both of which are currently being monitored.
Researcher and virologist Stuart Turville, who is an associate professor at Sydney’s University of New South Whales, has described the new variant as “more competitive” and “more slippery” as it’s more capable of escaping from antibodies produced by vaccines.
However, he emphasized that the EG.5 variant is not much different from other subvariants; its only difference is that it’s able to enter and engage cells “a little bit better.”
Professor K. Srinath Reddy, who works at the Indian Public Health Foundation, noted that “it’s less invasive and lethal in the body” but that its effects are still being observed.
What Symptoms Does the EG.5 Subvariant Cause?
Symptoms associated with the EG.5 subvariant are similar to those of other variants and can range from mild to severe.
For example, it can cause fever, cough, chills, fatigue, shortness of breath, loss of taste or smell, headaches, body aches, or muscle aches. In addition to that, it can also cause a dry cough, runny nose, and sneezing, which can make differentiating an EG.5 infection from the common cold or flu difficult.
For this reason, vaccines and boosters are still highly recommended, especially for the vulnerable population. Safe social practices such as keeping spaces well-ventilated and wearing face masks are also encouraged.
Where is the EG.5 Subvariant Circulating?
The EG.5 variant is responsible for 17 percent of all COVID-19 cases reported during the two-week period up to Aug. 5, according to the CDC tracker.
In the previous two-week period, it only accounted for 12 percent of all reported cases, while XBB.1.16 accounted for 16 percent of all cases.
Outside of the United States, the EG.5.1. subvariant has also been reported in India, Thailand, and Britain.
How Dangerous Is the EG.5 Subvariant?
Currently, there’s no evidence to suggest that it causes more severe illness compared to previous variants. The CDC has also said that it’s susceptible to vaccines, which is good news.
In fact, health officials have announced that they will be releasing a new vaccine this fall- one that will target the XBB subvariants that were responsible for most of the cases in 2023.