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The Latest on COVID-19’s EG.5 Variant: What You Need to Know
General Wellness

The Latest on COVID-19’s EG.5 Variant: What You Need to Know

By Shirin Mazumder, MD, Infectious Diseases Physician
Posted: September 5, 2023

Across the world, we have been managing the challenges of COVID-19 for more than three years now, so news of the emergence of a new variant can be jarring and unsettling for many. The EG.5 variant, also known as "Eris," has captured attention in recent weeks due to its potential implications for our ongoing battle against the virus. In this article, we'll break down what we know about EG.5 and its impact on our lives.  

The Unexpected Rise in Cases

For most people, COVID-19 seemed to have faded from the headlines. However, the recent news of an uptick in cases across the U.S., especially involving the EG.5 variant, raises questions about the persistence of the virus. This increase in cases is not entirely unexpected. Just like in previous summers, factors like heat waves, travel, and waning immunity contribute to a seasonal rise in cases. A major surge is not currently anticipated, but COVID-19 can still be a concern for people at high risk of serious diseases, including the elderly, nursing home residents, pregnant women, immunocompromised individuals and those with chronic medical conditions such as heart and lung disease. It's important to note that while hospitalizations and test positivity have increased, COVID-related deaths remain low, with rates significantly lower than the Omicron outbreak of January 2022. 

What is the EG.5 Variant?

The EG.5 variant, closely related to the XBB subvariant, has gained attention due to an extra mutation in its spike protein. This evolutionary advantage might impact how the virus interacts with our immune systems, but more research is needed to fully understand its implications. Disease experts suggest that EG.5 might potentially evade antibodies from previous variants and vaccines, but this aspect has yet to be definitively established. 

Where did EG.5 Originate?

EG.5 first surfaced in China in February 2023 and was identified in the United States in April of the same year. Since then, it has rapidly spread to approximately 50 countries worldwide, indicating its global presence and impact.


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About Transmissibility and Contagiousness

While our understanding of EG.5 is still in its early stages, there are indications that it shares a high transmissibility rate with other Omicron variants. The competitive edge in transmissibility may be contributing to the variant's dominance. However, current testing methods are still effective in detecting EG.5, and antiviral medications like Paxlovid can be used to treat high-risk individuals. 

Effectiveness of Vaccines with EG.5

At present, there is limited data on how well-existing vaccines protect against EG.5. Research is ongoing to determine the effectiveness of current vaccine regimens in preventing infection and severe outcomes related to this variant.

Recognizing the Symptoms and Differences of EG.5

The symptoms associated with EG.5 are like those of previous variants. These include: sore throat, runny nose, congestion, cough, body aches, headaches, fatigue, and altered sense of smell. While mild symptoms are common, severe symptoms like shortness of breath should prompt individuals to seek medical evaluation. 

I’m Vaccinated, What Are My Risks?

The longevity of vaccine immunity varies, making it important for certain high-risk groups to consider extra precautions. The elderly, nursing home residents, pregnant women, immunocompromised individuals, and those with underlying medical conditions should be particularly vigilant. Additionally, staying up-to-date with booster shots is crucial. An updated booster targeted against the XBB variant is anticipated this fall, offering enhanced protection against variants like EG.5. 

How to Protect Yourself and Others

In addition to vaccination, there are several preventive measures individuals can take to protect themselves and loved ones from EG.5. Just like with previous strains, regular handwashing, covering coughs and sneezes, staying home when ill and wearing masks in crowded and poorly ventilated settings are all effective strategies. The level of risk tolerance may vary based on individual factors. 

If you test positive for COVID-19, contacting your healthcare provider is essential. Medications like Paxlovid can reduce hospitalization risks, particularly when started within five days of symptom onset. 

Take Action Today!

Stay informed and stay safe. Methodist Le Bonheur Healthcare is dedicated to providing the latest information and guidance to keep you and your loved ones protected. Visit our official website at to access COVID-19 resources and updates.