Even though COVID positivity rates and hospitalizations have declined in recent weeks, for many concerns persist about becoming ill this fall, a time of the year that typically sees a surge in COVID, influenza and respiratory syncytial virus infections.
While data provided by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has shown a drop in positivity rates and hospitalizations over the past week, from Oct. 8-14, hospitalizations have risen 4.2% during that same time period.
Stronger immunity, COVID vaccines, tests and effective treatments have helped keep people out of the hospital in recent months, according to an article published on Sept. 1 by the University of California Davis Health. So far this fall, EG.5, an omicron subvariant commonly known as Eris, has proven to be the most dominant strain. EG.5 accounted for 23.6% of all new cases between Oct. 1-14, according to the CDC's variant proportions data.
The strain's dominance has continued for several weeks, beginning with the two-week period between July 23 and Aug. 5, when it surpassed dozens of others to become the most prevalent in the U.S.
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A descendant of the XBB sublineage XBB.1.9.2, EG.5 has one additional spike mutation, allowing it to evade immunity easier than others. When it comes to symptoms, they appear to largely mirror those experienced with other COVID infections.
People who contract COVID may exhibit a wide range of symptoms, including the common ones listed below, as defined by the CDC:
- Fever or chills
- Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
- Muscle or body aches
- New loss of taste or smell
- Sore throat
- Congestion or runny nose
- Nausea or vomiting
When compared to other XBB variants, EG.5 is likely more transmissible, Dr. Sharon Nachman, chief of the division of pediatric infectious diseases at Stony Brook Children’s Hospital, previously told TODAY.com. However, it's unclear why that is the case.
"If it was equally transmissible, then we wouldn't see it gaining strength number-wise compared to some of the other variants," said Nachman, adding that EG.5 quickly pushed out other XBB variants in the U.S., which were dominant at periods this summer.
EG.5 has shown increased prevalence, growth and immune escape properties, but it doesn't appear to be more severe than others, as stated in a previous WHO report.
If you're due for a COVID shot, doctors are recommending that you get the updated COVID booster, which was rolled out toward the beginning of the fall. It has been designed target the XBB variants, which are closely associated with EG.5.
"There should be a nice match between that vaccine and the EG.5 variant, as well as the other XBB variants that are circulating right now," Andrew Pekosz, a professor in Molecular Microbiology and Immunology with the John Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, said in an article.