WHO Monitoring EG.5 Variant of Covid-19 as Cases Rise in China and the U.S.

Monitoring the New Strain of Covid-19: EG.5

The World Health Organization’s Alert

The World Health Organization (WHO) is closely monitoring a new strain of Covid-19 called EG.5, also known as “Eris.” This variant is becoming increasingly prevalent in countries such as China and the United States.

The WHO has classified EG.5 as a “variant of interest,” indicating that it will be closely observed for any mutations that may make it more severe.

According to current evidence, the WHO states that EG.5 poses a low public health risk globally, similar to other variants currently circulating.

“Although EG.5 has shown increased prevalence, growth advantage, and immune escape properties, there have been no reported changes in disease severity to date,” stated the WHO in a risk evaluation published on August 9.

The WHO also noted that these characteristics might lead the variant to become dominant in certain countries or even worldwide.

Global Distribution of EG.5 Cases

Based on sequencing information submitted to the Global Initiative on Sharing All Influenza Data (GISAID) as of August 7, the majority of EG.5 cases were identified in China, followed by the United States, South Korea, Japan, and Canada.

EG.5 cases were also detected in Australia, Singapore, the United Kingdom, France, Portugal, and Spain.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), EG.5 has now become the dominant strain in the United States, accounting for 17.3% of cases as of the week ending August 5.

New Vaccines Targeting XBB Variants

Moderna, Pfizer, and Novavax are preparing to release new Covid vaccines this fall that specifically target XBB variants, which originated from Omicron.

Novavax claims that its vaccine “induces functional immune responses to XBB subvariants including XBB.1.5, XBB.1.16, and XBB.2.3.”

Relationship between EG.5 and XBB Variants

EG.5 is a descendant strain of a variant that shares a spike amino acid profile with XBB.1.5.

Justin Lessler, a professor in the Department of Epidemiology at UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health, explained that “EG.5 is part of the XBB lineage and is more closely related to the XBB variants than it is to previous vaccine strains.”

Therefore, it is expected that the reformulated vaccines set to be available this fall will offer better protection against EG.5 compared to previous vaccines.

Availability of New Vaccines

New vaccines are anticipated to be available in the United States starting from late September, as the responsibility for vaccine distribution shifts to the private sector, according to CDC Director Mandy Cohen.

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