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Three years post-pandemic, the world has returned to normalcy until the rise of the new COVID strain.
There’s a new COVID-19 strain, EG.5, or Eris. It originally emerged in November 2021, but has recently started circulating in the country during peak respiratory virus season. According to Yale Medicine, “a descendant of Omicron, Eris is already the dominant coronavirus subvariant in the country, infecting more people than any other single strain.”
Everyone remembers when the pandemic first started. It shifted the world. It produced uncertainty and fear.
In March 2020, The World Health Organization declared COVID-19 a pandemic on March 11. The President of the United States declared a national emergency regarding COVID-19 on March 13. As the pandemic progressed, scientists did research to make vaccines which were first administered in December 2020.
A year after COVID-19 was declared a national emergency, more than 100 million COVID-19 vaccine doses were administered in the United States. According to the CDC COVID-19 Timeline, on June 1, 2021, the “Delta” variant, first identified in India, becomes the dominant variant in the U.S. The variant begins a third wave of infections during the summer of 2021.
According to the same timeline, on November 26, 2021, the WHO designates the COVID-19 “Omicron” variant, first identified by scientists in South Africa, as a “variant of concern.” Changes in the spike protein of the Omicron variant of the SARS-CoV-2 virus concerned scientists around the world due to the potential for increased transmissibility and decreased vaccine protection.
As 2022 was ringing in, Delta and Omicron spread. New York had recorded its highest number of new cases in a single day since the pandemic began. In April, the Biden administration ended the mask mandate.
The world has readjusted post-pandemic, but there’s new variants. According to Yale Medicine, “EG.5 isn’t setting off any alarms as far as disease severity, although early reports show it may be more transmissible -- it has surpassed XBB.1.16 (or Arcturus), another highly contagious Omicron subvariant that was in the news a few months ago.”
Dr. Scott Roberts, a Yale Medicine infectious diseases specialist commented on the new findings.
“I am not aware of data that suggests EG.5 leads to worse cases of COVID-19 compared to prior variants,” Dr. Roberts said.
According to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates, EG.5 was responsible for 29.4% of cases of COVID in the United States at the end of September, which was more than any other single circulating SARS-CoV-2 strain.
Eris has made headlines in the past few months after being identified in February. Dr. Roberts explained the difference from the other recent strains and how it contains a singular new mutation in its spike protein, which is the area that allows virus entry into the host cell.
“Similar to all variants that have arisen, there is some extra degree of immune evasiveness because of a slight difference in genotype,” Dr. Roberts said.
However, the symptoms of Eris replicate that of cold-like symptoms. That’s a similarity with other Omicron strains. The vaccines help protect against COVID-19, however Pfizer, Moderna and Novavax aren’t an exact match. They have developed vaccines for an Omicron offshoot which should be able to combat COVID.
This variant shouldn’t be too severe.
“COVID will probably be similar to the flu, where the strain mutates slightly every year, and we develop a vaccine before we know exactly which variants will be circulating several months out,” Dr. Roberts said.
However, during winter, it’s best to be cautious as it’s when most are susceptible to getting sick.