New COVID-19 variant in the United States
By WVUA 23 News Student Reporter Peyton Newman
COVID-19 is back with another new variant known as EG.5. According to General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the Director of the World Health Organization, the variant is rapidly growing in other countries, such as Ireland, the UK, and China. The WHO reports that the worldwide occurrences of EG.5 increased by 10% from June to July of 2023. This current variant makes up 17% of COVID cases.
New COVID-19 reporting policies only require healthcare professionals to report COVID-19 hospitalizations, rather than all positive cases. Regional Medical Officer at Alabama Department of Public Health, Dr. Wes Stubblefield, shared how Centers for Disease Control technicians are utilizing different methods to measure the severity of the variant.
“They’re tracking wastewater surveillance,” Stubblefield said. “So, they’re actually checking wastewater for COVID samples at selected sites. Some hospitals are reporting voluntarily emergency department visits that are due to COVID-19. Some hospitals and some laboratories are reporting percent positivity still to the CDC.”
With back to school season here, it is expected the variant could begin to spread even faster. Dr. Stubblefield recommends students to stay up to date with CDC reports of the variant as well as practice clean hygiene and be up-to-date on the vaccine to prevent the spread.
Variant EG.5 is described as a “recombinant strain” to Omicron as opposed to a brand new strain of the COVID-19 virus. Dr. Stubblefield expects EG.5 to become the new dominant strain.
“It will become the dominant variant quickly as it has overseas,” Stubblefield said. “Whether it causes an increase in the number of hospitalizations or emergency department visits or deaths still remains to be seen.”
Stubblefield recommends that those exposed to the variant use the CDC quarantine calculator. Further, he expects another vaccine to be released either this month or next month.