‘Eris’ on the rise: What we know about the new dominant COVID-19 variant in the US
It may be time for US citizens to take precautionary health measures again as the COVID-19 subvariant called EG.5, dubbed “Eris” on social media, has been on the rise—accounting for 17.3 percent of COVID-19 infections in the US as of Aug. 5, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
Dr. Andrew Pekosz of the Department of Molecular Microbiology and Immunology at Johns Hopkins describes the EG.5 variant as very closely related to the XBB Omicron subvariants that have been circulating in the US for the past six months.
“Notably, it contains one particular mutation that is known to evade some of the immunity that you get after an infection or vaccination,” Pekosz says.
While there’s no need to panic, Pekosz suggests those susceptible to severe COVID-19 such as the elderly and those with medical conditions should take care not to dismiss respiratory symptoms. Like in previous variants, EG.5 symptoms include headache, cough, fever, fatigue, and muscle aches.
“Its disease potential appears to be exactly the same as other variants’ as well. The antivirals currently available should work against it,” adds Pekosz. “And the diagnostic tests, both the at-home rapid tests as well as tests that you get at medical facilities, all should recognize this variant quite well.”
With EG.5 closely related to XBB variants, the new COVID-19 vaccine targeting the XBB 1.5 variant set for a fall rollout is expected to protect against EG.5 as well.
“Based on the available evidence, the public health risk posed by EG.5 is evaluated as low at the global level, aligning with the risk associated with XBB.1.16 and the other currently circulating variants of interest,” wrote the World Health Organization in its EG.5 Initial Risk Evaluation on Aug. 9.
“While EG.5 has shown increased prevalence, growth advantage, and immune escape properties, there have been no reported changes in disease severity to date,” the WHO went on to say. “However, due to its growth advantage and immune escape characteristics, EG.5 may cause a rise in case incidence and become dominant in some countries or even globally.”
This serves as a reminder for us that COVID-19 is still around and we should keep ourselves updated on how we can protect ourselves from it.