eTurboNews | eTN Health Tourism Travel Health News Trending News World Travel News

Is it Time to Mask Up Again Against Covid?

, Is it Time to Mask Up Again Against Covid?, eTurboNews | eTN
Written by Linda Hohnholz

The new Covid-19 variant EG.5 is making case numbers and hospitalizations rise.

SME in Travel? Click here!

In the United States, around 17% of the new Covid cases are due to the EG.5 variant, according to statistics from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The EG variant is a spinoff of the XBB recombinant strain of the Omicron family.

Compared with its parent XBB.1.9.2, it has one extra mutation to its spike at position 465. This mutation has appeared in other coronavirus variants before. Scientists aren’t sure exactly what new tricks it enables the virus to do, but variant hunters are paying attention, because many of the new XBB descendants have adopted it.

The 465 mutation is present in about 35% of coronavirus sequences reported worldwide, including another that’s rising in prevalence in the Northeast, FL.1.5.1, suggesting that it is conveying some kind of evolutionary advantage over previous versions. EG.5 also now has its own offshoot, EG.5.1, that adds a second mutation to the spike. That one is also spreading rapidly.

Professor of Microbiology and Immunology, Dr. David Ho, has been testing these variants in his lab at Columbia University to see how resistant they have become to the antibodies we have to defend against them. In an email to CNN, he said, “Both are only slightly more resistant to neutralizing antibodies in serum of infected and vaccinated persons.”

Dr. Eric Topol, a cardiologist at the Scripps Translational Research Institute, said that clinically these variants don’t seem to be causing different or more severe symptoms than the viruses that came before them.

“It basically has some more immune escape compared to the ones that were precedents in this XBB series,” he said.

“It has an advantage, which is why it’s getting legs all around the world.”

Beyond the US, EG.5 is growing quickly in Ireland, France, the UK, Japan, and China. The World Health Organization (WHO) upgraded its status last week from a variant under monitoring to a variant of interest, a move that signals the agency thinks it should be tracked and studied further.

The variant has become the most prevalent in the US just as cases, emergency room visits, and hospitalizations are going up, although there’s nothing to suggest that this specific strain is what’s driving those increases.

Instead, epidemiologists are pointing to human behavior as the engine for this increase in activity. They point to things like the summer – more people staying indoors for air conditioning, travel sending people outside their normal social circles, and school is going back into session where viruses are notorious for spreading like wildfire.

Dr. Anne Hahn, a postdoctoral associate in the Department of Epidemiology of Microbial Diseases at the Yale School of Public Health says there are reasons to be hopeful this current wave of Covid cases won’t be so bad.

“We are starting from a very low baseline in combination with high population immunity, which would speak against a big surge anytime soon. However, what these new variants will do during wintertime remains to be seen,” she said.

Levels of virus detected in wastewater in August are about where they were in March, according to data from Biobot Analytics.

“I do expect that there will be widespread infections, and I would expect that those widespread infections would generally be mild,” said Dr. Dan Barouch, an immunologist and virologist at Harvard University in Boston.

The WHO recommendations still stand:  get vaccinated, mask up, maintain a safe distance, sanitize, and if you test positive self isolate until you are negative.

About the author


Linda Hohnholz

Editor in chief for eTurboNews based in the eTN HQ.

Notify of
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Would love your thoughts, please comment.x
Share to...