A pharmacy advertises COVID-19 vaccines in a window along Roosevelt Avenue in the Queens borough of New York City on May 11, 2023. (Spencer Platt/Getty Images)
The COVID-19 subvariant EG.5, a descendant of omicron, is now the primary variant in the United States.
According to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, as of Aug. 8, EG.5 has surpassed the previous variant XBB.1.16, and makes up an estimated 17.3 percent of cases—up from about 12 percent of cases in July, and from about 1.1 percent by the end of May.
Meanwhile, XBB.1.16, now the second most prevalent strain, accounts for around 15.6 percent of cases.
The EG.5 variant is under the omicron family. It originates from the XBB.1.9.2 lineage with an added mutation. So far, it doesn’t seem to be causing more severe illness than other strains.
Symptoms of EG.5 are similar to those of previous COVID-19 strains and that of the common cold, such as sore throat, runny nose, congestion, cough, and fever. Some reports have said EG.5 is more often associated with symptoms like a runny nose, sneezing, and a dry cough.
Distinguishing an EG.5 infection from other respiratory illnesses like the flu or common cold can be challenging due to seasonal fluctuations and limited testing. But the similar symptoms suggest the response and treatment strategies should generally align with those used for prior COVID-19 strains.
‘Variant Under Monitoring’
EG.5 was first detected in February, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). It is being unofficially nicknamed “eris,” although WHO hasn’t officially adopted the name.
The United Nations body in July labeled EG.5 as a “variant under monitoring,” noting its presence in 45 countries and its rapid global rise. The labeling means EG.5 shows genetic differences that might show “early signals of growth advantage” compared to other strains out there, but more assessment is required.
The Biden administration officially ended the United States COVID-19 public health emergency in May. As such, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and many states no longer track national COVID-19 case rates.
However, COVID-19 hospital admissions in the country have increased slightly since early July. For the week ending July 29, COVID-19 hospital admissions were at 9,056—an increase of about 12 percent from the previous week.
The figures are significantly lower compared to past peaks—for example, the 44,000 weekly hospital admissions in early January; the nearly 45,000 in late July 2022; or the 150,000 admissions during January 2022, when omicron was most prevalent.
Globally, COVID-19 hospital admissions have generally declined since the beginning of the year.
Monitoring methods include measuring COVID-19 levels in wastewater, which has shown an uptick across the nation since late June. The Northeast and South have recorded higher concentrations, but they remain about 2.5 times lower than the previous summer, according to Cristin Young, an epidemiologist at Biobot Analytics, the CDC’s wastewater surveillance contractor.
“There are a couple that we’re watching, but we’re not seeing anything like delta or omicron,” Young said, referencing variants that fueled previous surges.
By this fall, updated COVID-19 vaccines targeting the omicron strain XBB.1.5 are expected. XBB.1.5, listed by the WHO as a “variant of concern,” previously dominated transmission in the United States for several months straight but was taken over by XBB.1.16 in July.
Health officials anticipate the latest booster vaccines to offer adequate cross-protection against severe disease and hospitalization for prevalent strains like EG.5.
Pfizer, Moderna, and Novavax are developing these updated doses of the XBB update, pending approval by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and recommendations for their use by the CDC.
The new CDC director, Dr. Mandy Cohen, anticipates that these vaccines will be available at common locations like pharmacies and anticipates an annual COVID-19 shot, integrating it into routine health practices.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
From The Epoch Times
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