Thanks in large part to a novel variety known as EG.5, which now accounts for roughly one in five cases, COVID-19 cases in the US are on the rise at this point in the year, with the CDC reporting a 14.3% increase in hospitalizations.
Professor Andrew Pekosz of the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health in Baltimore, a molecular microbiologist, says that the new variation is noteworthy for its high transmissibility and capacity to defy immunity.
He pointed out that diagnostic tests performed both at home and in a clinic can distinguish between the symptoms of the novel variant and those of previous variants.
EG.5 "shouldn't be of high concern" for the general population, according to Prof. Pekosz, but the clinically vulnerable should consider how they might get tested and where they might find antiviral drugs if necessary.
If you're in a high-risk group in particular, you might want to think about donning a mask or keeping a little bit more social distance, he continued.
According to Prof. Pekosz, the XBB variants that have been circulating in the US over the past six months are extremely closely connected to the latest Covid variant EG.5.
Notably, it possesses a specific mutation that is known to circumvent some of the protection that is acquired following an infection or vaccine.
The total number of cases is still quite modest and reasonable, despite the fact that it is rising swiftly.
"We're not discussing a possible rise like the one we witnessed when omicron initially appeared.
But whenever a virus is responsible for a sharp rise in instances, we want to pay attention.
Prof. Pekosz pointed out that other Covid variants are still active in the US despite the fact that instances of EG.5 are currently rising more quickly than those of other variants.
He claimed that diminishing population immunity is probably responsible for some of this overall increase.
It has been a while since Covid boosters were offered, and those boosters did have a pretty poor adoption rate in the populations, according to Prof. Pekosz.
There are presumably many susceptible people in the public, given that the XBB variations appear to your immune system differently than the [variants targeted by] prior Covid vaccinations.
In light of this, Prof. Pekosz offers several suggestions to those seeking a shot.
One positive aspect of EG.5 is that it is closely related to XBB variations, which are the foundation for the new Covid vaccination that will be released in the fall.
"That vaccination should work well against the EG.5 variation as well as the other XBB variants that are currently in circulation.
To have better protection against the viruses that are presently circulating, I believe it is probably best if people wait and try to get in line as soon as the new fall vaccination rolls out.