While the pandemic may seem like a distant memory to many, the coronavirus continues to spread and new cases are rising thanks to the latest mutant strain of the virus.
A new subvariant of COVID-19 called EG.5 is increasing in Europe since it was first identified earlier this year.
This month, the World Health Organization (WHO) designated it a “variant of interest” as cases rose around the world.
Here’s what you need to know.
What are the new EG.5 variants?
EG.5 is a sublineage of the COVID-19 Omicron variant that is closely related to other variants prevalent around the world. It is a mutated version of the virus.
Globally its prevalence has risen from 7.6% of COVID-19 cases at the end of June to 17.4% at the end of July. As such, the World Health Organization has now designated it as “of interest”.
However, the public health risk is low due to its proximity to earlier prevalent variants, According to WHO. However, the World Health Organization notes that the subvariant may become dominant in some countries or globally and lead to an increase in COVID-19 cases.
“Obviously it has some kind of advantage over other methods,” explains Rowland Kao, professor of veterinary epidemiology and data science at the University of Edinburgh.
But he told Euronews Next that “the situation is not as dramatic as the original Omicron variant starting to become popular around the world in 2021”.
What are the symptoms of EG.5? Is it more serious than other variants?
Andrew Pekosz, a professor in the Johns Hopkins Department of Molecular Microbiology and Immunology, said symptoms of EG.5 appear to be similar to those of other variants. Interview with University School of Public Health.
Common symptoms of COVID-19 include fever, cough and fatigue, as well as runny nose, headache or muscle aches. It may look like a cold, flu, or pneumonia.
Maria Van Kerkove, WHO’s technical lead for COVID-19, said earlier this month: “Compared with other Omicron subvariants in circulation since the end of 2021, we did not detect a change in the severity of EG.5.”
Andrew Pollard, professor of infection and immunology at the University of Oxford, told Euronews that there is some evidence that Omicron and its subvariants are less severe than earlier strains.
However, it is “difficult to explain because people now have strong immunity to this virus, and our immunity will also protect us from severe disease.”
How much circulation is there?
Initially, EG.5 circulated in China, Japan, and Korea, and is now increasing in North America and Europe.
In France, EG.5 accounted for 26% of the sequence on 17 July, compared to 15% of the sequence the week before, which is “in line with the global situation,” according to the French Public Health Agency.
Especially in the United Kingdom, the mutation rate of EG.5.1 is the highest in the country, accounting for 14% of cases.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), EG.5 accounts for approximately 17% of cases in the United States, more than any other monitored Omicron variant.
“In some countries with increasing prevalence of EG.5, the number of cases and hospitalizations have increased, but there is currently no evidence that increased severity of the disease is directly related to EG.5,” the World Health Organization said. body risk assessment.
Should we be worried about these new coronavirus mutations?
“The longer we go without major incidents, we’ll be able to slowly calm down again because of the combination of vaccine production and natural immunity … but it’s too early to be fully satisfied,” Gao said.
Even if COVID-19 becomes another prevalent seasonal respiratory infection, if a variant “increases the number of COVID cases, if not catastrophically, the number of hospitalizations combined with the number of people who would normally expect flu would still give us some The real difficulty,” he said.
Currently, the COVID-19 vaccine is being adapted to the Omicron XBB variant, close to EG.5.
Pfizer and BioNTech requirements Regulatory approval These reinforcements to the European Medicines Agency were made in June.
“The vaccine continues to provide excellent protection against severe disease and death caused by all COVID-19 variants,” said Oxford’s Pollard.
“A booster dose could reduce the risk of infection for the frail, elderly, or those with underlying health conditions that could worsen if they became infected,” he said in an email. Current vaccines may target this Variations offer some protection.”
As countries continue to sequence, new variants will continue to emerge. experts point this out Another variant with more mutations in the spike protein emerged this week in Denmark and Israel.
WHO’s Van Kerkove noted that COVID-19 is evolving and spreading in all countries.
“This is going to continue, and that’s something we have to be prepared for,” he said, urging countries to continue sequencing and openly share data.