Health experts warn that the latest mutations of the omicron COVID-19 variant are gradually trickling back in increasing cases across the United States. Photo by Tim Mossholder on Pexels.com
by Lindiwe Vilakazi
The summer season has granted us an overwhelming relief from the previous years of rampant infections and mask mandates. But with the oncoming cold front of the fall season, health experts warn that the latest mutations of the omicron COVID-19 variant are gradually trickling back in increasing cases across the United States.
According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), roughly 21% of new cases within the last few weeks are of the EG.5 subvariant, currently the dominant strain in effect. However, a second omicron variant labeled as FL 1.5.1, is simultaneously increasing throughout the country and is responsible for 13.3% of the latest cases.
The reported amount of infections is almost double the number of cases recorded roughly a week ago, however, time will tell how severe of a health crisis the latest mutations may or may not cause in infected persons.
Dr. Tara Palmore, professor of medicine in the Division of Infectious Diseases at the George Washington University, suggested the latest mutations are mostly following suit to the clinical symptoms of previous omicron strands.
“There’s no evidence that EG.5 or the XBB sub-variants cause any different or more severe clinical disease than any of the other sub-variants that we’ve seen since omicron emerged in November 2021,” Palmore told George Washington Today. “They all behave the same clinically, but each subsequent subvariant that emerges is just a bit more infectious than the last.”
What Should We Be Aware Of?
The primary concern regarding the two strands is their rapid speed in spread due to a mutation increasing the potency of each subvariant.
The CDC reports that most subvariant symptoms are almost identical to former omicron strains, often displaying as colds or the flu, but including a runny nose, muscle aches, cough, headache, fatigue, and fever.
In some cases, those infected may experience a loss of smell and taste as with earlier strains, but this symptom is less prevalent in the current sub-variants.
How To Protect Against the Latest Variants
While COVID cases remain below peak levels, Axios reported that incidents of viral infection and hospitalizations are consistently rising as health officials continue to monitor the new variants.
According to the CDC, previous vaccines continue to hold some level of efficacy against the new strains, however, updated versions of the previous COVID-19 vaccine formulas are expected to be available across the U.S. for enhanced protection against the current mutations in the upcoming weeks.
The CDC advisory committee is reportedly scheduled to meet on Sept. 12 to discuss whether they will confirm recommendations of updated vaccination shots, with the expectation of making the vaccines available soon after.
Earlier this summer, the FDA directed vaccine manufacturers Moderna, Pfizer, and Novavax to formulate updated shots targeting the XBB.1.5 variant.
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