The World Health Organization (WHO) has identified a new subvariant of the omicron variant of SARS-CoV-2 called EG.5, or "Eris," and has designated it as a variant of interest. EG.5 is closely related to another omicron subvariant, XBB.1.9.2., but has an additional spike protein mutation. It was first reported to the WHO in February and has been steadily increasing in prevalence around the world.
Globally, EG.5 cases have been reported in 51 countries, including China, the US, Australia, and Japan. In some countries, such as the US and the UK, EG.5 has become the dominant variant, responsible for a significant portion of SARS-CoV-2 cases. However, the WHO has stated that the health risk posed by EG.5 is low and similar to other omicron subvariants, and there is no evidence to suggest that it causes more severe illness.
EG.5's extra spike protein mutation gives it a transmission advantage over previous variants and may affect how antibodies neutralize the virus, potentially allowing it to evade immunity from prior infection or vaccination. However, there is no conclusive evidence yet on the effectiveness of current vaccines against EG.5.
Symptoms of EG.5 are similar to other SARS-CoV-2 variants, including fever, cough, fatigue, and loss of taste or smell. The duration of symptoms is also similar, lasting around one to two weeks in mild cases.
To protect against EG.5, it is important for those at higher risk, such as older individuals and those with compromised immune systems, to stay up to date with vaccination. Handwashing and other preventative measures, such as wearing masks in crowded indoor settings, are still recommended to reduce the risk of infection.
As more research is conducted and data becomes available, health authorities will continue to monitor the spread and impact of EG.5 and adjust public health measures accordingly.