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What We Know So Far About the Eris COVID Subvariant in Wisconsin

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What Is Eris, or EG.5, and Are You Still Protected by Current Vaccines?

By Sarah Wilczek PharmD, pharmacist at Network Health
8/15/2023

After more than three years of dealing with COVID-19, we realize you are likely tired of hearing and worrying about it. Unfortunately, as the virus develops, it’s important to stay updated on changes that could impact your health. That’s why we’re here to talk about the Eris COVID-19 variant, also referred to as EG.5, which you may have seen in the news.

Based solely on those news articles, it may not always be clear how concerned you need to be about these new variants, especially when it comes to understanding what the news means specifically for those of us here in Wisconsin. Is Eris in Wisconsin? Do current vaccines still protect against COVID EG.5? We’ll clear up these questions below.

How Prevalent Is EG.5?

You may be just hearing about Eris in the news now, however, Eris is actually a subvariant of the Omicron strain that began circulating back in 2021. Eris was first detected in February 2023 and has spread considerably since then.

Eris is currently the most dominant COVID-19 variant in the United States. The term “dominant” does not necessarily mean that a variant makes up 50+ percent of COVID-19 cases but rather that it is responsible for the highest percentage of cases among all strains. Right now (mid-August 2023), Eris is responsible for 17 percent of all COVID cases.

Is the Eris COVID Variant in Wisconsin Yet?

We do not currently have a breakdown of how many COVID-19 cases in Wisconsin are of the EG.5 variant or another variant. That said, Eris is spreading across the country, and as the most dominant form of COVID-19, Wisconsin will not be immune to its transmission.

Due to delays and limitations in testing data, these new strains are sometimes more prevalent than initially realized. Not every COVID-19 case gets tested, meaning Eris will likely have been making the rounds across the state before significant spread is detected.

Is Eris Worse than Other COVID Strains?

The best thing you can do with any of these new strains is to make sure you are sufficiently protected, and that remains true with COVID EG.5. How different is Eris from the other strains of COVID-19 out there? Well, experts believe it isn’t that much different at all.

The main difference is that some evidence suggests Eris may be more transmissible than previous variants seen recently. That said, there is nothing to suggest Eris is making people sicker than other variants. The symptoms for EG.5 remain similar to past variants and include the following.

  • Cough
  • Fever
  • Chills
  • Shortness of breath
  • Fatigue
  • Body aches
  • Headaches
  • Loss of taste or smell

As with past variants, those with compromised immune systems or chronic diseases, as well as older people, are most at risk from Eris.

Do COVID-19 Vaccine Boosters Work Against EG.5?

The best way to stay protected against COVID-19 is and has been through vaccination. Be sure to get vaccinated or get boosted if you haven’t been.

Of course, a new COVID strain raises the question of whether the current vaccine can still offer sufficient protection. In the case of EG.5, a new COVID vaccine is in the works that will be rolled out this fall, likely to be available by October. Though it is too soon to determine its effectiveness, the new vaccine is engineered to specifically fight against variants similar to Eris and will offer at least some protection.

Since this coincides with flu season, it’s also important to remember that COVID vaccines do not protect against seasonal flu. This year’s flu shots are becoming available, so you’ll want to make sure you receive both your flu vaccination and COVID vaccination to stay protected. Go to vaccines.gov to find a vaccination site near you.

Talk to your pharmacist or personal doctor about protecting yourself against this year’s flu and current COVID-19 strains. If you have a Network Health plan, you can call the number on the back of your member I.D. card for any questions about vaccine coverage.

 


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