A new variant called Eris has entered the COVID scene, but experts don’t expect it to have a substantial impact on health protocols just yet.
Eris, a subvariant of Omicron, is a fast-spreading variant that is responsible for more than 17% of cases in the U.S., making it the most common in the country right now.
The World Health Organization (WHO) has called Eris, which is officially named EG.5, a “variant of interest,” but said it does not pose a greater threat than other variants, Reuters reported.
“Collectively, available evidence does not suggest that EG.5 has additional public health risks relative to the other currently circulating Omicron descendent lineages,” the WHO said in a risk evaluation.
As of Aug. 8, the variant had been found in more than 50 countries, including China, Japan, South Korea and Canada.
“People should not be overly concerned about Eris,” Dr. Brett Osborn, a board-certified neurosurgeon in West Palm Beach, Florida, told Fox News Digital. “The disease is self-limiting in the majority of cases.”
Like other COVID variants, Osborn said that symptoms are, for the most part, “benign.”
“People should not be overly concerned about Eris. The disease is self-limiting in the majority of cases.”
“Basically, you feel lousy for several days and then recover without any adverse sequela (after-effect), similar to the influenza virus infection,” said Dr. Osborn, who is also the founder of a preventative health care and anti-aging facility, Senolytix.
“During this time, infected people should be in touch with their physician’s office, rest, stay hydrated and practice handwashing,” he went on.
“Limit contact with others for at least five days. These are typical treatment measures for those with other viral illnesses as well.”
How vaccines affect variants
The main vaccine manufacturers — Pfizer/BioNTech, Moderna and Novavax — all created updated versions of their vaccines designed to combat another Omicron subvariant, XBB.1.5, which is thought to be similar to the new Eris subvariant.
Updated versions of the COVID vaccine are expected to be available in the U.S. by mid to late September, CDC Director Dr. Mandy Cohen said in a recent interview with Andy Slavitt on the “In the Bubble” podcast.
“Right now, what we’re seeing with the changes in the viruses, they’re still susceptible to our vaccine, they’re still susceptible to our medicines, they’re still picked up by the tests,” said Cohen.
“So all of our tools still work as the virus changes.”
COVID hospitalizations have been on the uptick this summer, rising 10% in the sharpest increase since December 2022, per the CDC.
“Early indicators of COVID-19 activity (emergency department visits, test positivity and wastewater levels) preceded an increase in hospitalizations seen this past week,” CDC spokesperson Kathleen Conley said in a statement.
Despite the uptick, COVID rates are still at “near-historic lows” in the U.S., Conley said.
‘Never going away’
Experts agree that COVID, in all its forms, is likely a permanent part of life.
“One thing that Americans must understand: SARS-CoV-2 and its variants are never going away,” Osborn told Fox News Digital. “It is here to stay because its mutation rate is high, just like influenza.”
“And this is why the flu vaccine is changed yearly — to ‘chase’ the dominant strains at that time, until it eludes us next year,” he said.
Only in the event that the strain becomes more virulent, which would reflect in death counts provided by hospitals, should there be a cause for concern, Osborn said.
“RNA viruses typically become less virulent over time — more contagious, maybe, but less life-threatening,” he added. “So, change nothing on account of the emergence of Eris or any other variant unless the CDC instructs otherwise.”
Dr. Osborn also said, “Don’t give yourself any undue stress. It’s not worth it.”
Reuters contributed reporting to this article.