U.S. Has New Dominant COVID Variant Called EG.5

2 min read

Aug. 7, 2023 – COVID-19 hospitalizations continue their steady summer march upward, and now a new variant has perched atop the list of the most prevalent forms of the virus.

Called “Eris” among avid COVID trackers, the strain EG.5 now accounts for 17% of all U.S. COVID infections, according to the latest CDC estimates. That’s up from 12% the week prior. 

EG.5 has been rising worldwide, just weeks after the World Health Organization added the strain to its official monitoring list. In the United Kingdom, it now accounts for 1 in 10 COVID cases, The Independent reported.

EG.5 is a descendant of the XBB strains that have dominated tracking lists in recent months. It has the same makeup as XBB.1.9.2 but carries an extra spike mutation, according to a summary published by the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy at the University of Minnesota. The spike protein is the part of the virus that allows it to enter human cells. But there’s no indication so far that EG.5 is more contagious or severe than other recent variants, according to the CIDRAP summary and a recent podcast from the American Medical Association. The CDC said that current vaccines protect against the variant.

U.S. hospitals saw a 12% increase in COVID admissions this past week, with 8,035 people being admitted due to the virus, up from an all-time low of 6,306 the week of June 24. In 17 states, the past-week increase in hospitalizations was 20% or greater. In Minnesota, the rate jumped by 50%, and in West Virginia, it jumped by 63%. Meanwhile, deaths reached their lowest weekly rate ever for the week of data ending July 29, with just 176 deaths reported by the CDC.