The prevalence of a new Covid-19 variant has increased significantly in the US, with its recent appearance being seen as demonstrating the importance of vaccine boosters and the need for better virus surveillance.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that EG.5.1, also known as Eris or Omicron subvariant, is the dominant form of the virus and accounts for approximately 17% of Covid infections in the US. Its increase coincides with a recent surge in hospitalizations caused by Cov infection.
The experts noted that the numbers are still significantly lower than hospitalization rates during the pandemic and do not suggest any need for social isolation or mask regulations. The new strain is part of the virus’s expected evolution.
The possibility of mutations persisting as the virus circulates, resulting in the development of new genetic variants.
The experts stated that the virus’s true extent is difficult to determine due to the limited surveillance measures. They advised individuals who are more susceptible to it to continue monitoring their own data. Furthermore, they suggested taking a Covid test before transmitting any new information to sick people.
Justin Lessler, an epidemiology professor at the University of North Carolina, emphasized the need to maintain vigilance and be alert for a new pandemic strain, which is not EG.5.1.
Joe Biden announced in April that the federal Covid public health emergency had ended, leading to the elimination of over-the-counter tests from insurers and the withdrawal of free at-home test kits for Medicare beneficiaries. Additionally, some individuals took tests during the pandemic, but many of those have expired.
The testing has been conducted in many countries, including the United States, but this is not the biggest concern, as stated by Nuzzo.
The difficulty in identifying virus trends and making an accurate assessment arises from this.
Nuzzo stated that even if there is a high percentage of test positive, it remains uncertain whether this is because the only individuals tested are really sick and well-known for having Covid, while in the past, those who needed TB or CBT before being able to participate in sports or camp were required to have them.
Public health agencies rely on wastewater testing to measure Covid concentration and variants, but it’s more challenging for them to determine per-person whether or not individuals are getting sicker or infecting more people due to being infected.
She stated that the wastewater data cannot be associated with individuals. “It’s entirely anonymous.”
She stated that if the variant is problematic, we will be able to detect it, but how soon can we expect it to happen?
“It’s evident that there is no hidden severe wave,” Nuzzo remarked.
Nuzzo suggests that targeted testing, particularly in nursing homes, is more effective than previous attempts due to the pandemic. Additionally, as the fall virus season approaches, healthcare workers must conduct tests in areas with inadequate healthcare facilities, such as rural and low-income regions like rural Italy or San Lorenzo.
The CDC reported that approximately 9,000 Covid hospitalizations took place in the final week of July, representing a 28% surge from the previous month.
In January 2022, the Omicron wave caused 150,000 Covid hospitalizations to occur in a single week.
The new variant’s release is not known to have any connection with the increase in hospitalizations, according to Lessler.
Lessler stated that it is uncertain whether receiving this variant or another would be linked to more hospitalization.
Nevertheless, the experts recommended that older adults or immunosuppressed individuals should wear masks when going indoors in public.
Dr Monica Gandhi, an infectious disease specialist at the University of California, San Francisco, warned that no country is likely to reintroduce lockdowns, mask mandates or social restraint.
People should also receive an updated vaccine booster shot, according to Lessler. The CEO of Pfizer, which produces vaccines, recently stated that a booster could be approved by the FDA this month.
According to Lessler, this is the most effective way to protect oneself and reduce the virus’s impact.
Lessler stated that the virus’s future will likely pose a significant risk to human health, similar to diabetes or heart disease.