While scientists are sounding the alarm over an increase in Covid cases and suggesting people wear masks in their own homes, a top health official said there is nothing to suggest the new variant ‘Eris’ is more likely to cause serious infections.
Dr. Former Food and Drug Administration commissioner Scott Gottlieb said the strain — dubbed EG.5 — has mutations that put it past vaccine immunity and previous infections.
But he added that it was “not that… different” from previous Omicron strains, and was therefore not more likely to cause serious infections, hospitalizations or deaths.
Dr. Gottlieb said on CNBC’s Squawk Box, “There is nothing to indicate that this particular strain (EG.5) currently circulating in the United States is any more pathogenic than previous variants.
“So people who have been vaccinated with previous variants and who have had the infection before should have some residual immunity against this.”
He added, “But this is an Omicron sub-variant that doesn’t appear to differ much from the earlier Omicron variants in terms of pathogenicity.”
Monitoring by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) suggests that EG.5 – one of the fastest spreading variants to date – is currently behind one in five infections in the US. But dr. Gottlieb said that due to a lag in data, the variant may be behind half of the cases.
The above shows Covid variants in the United States. It highlights how EG.5, shown in orange, has grown rapidly as a percentage of infections and is now dominant
Dr. Gottlieb failed to name another new Covid strain – known as BA.X – which has led to calls for face masks and scientists fearing a surge in Covid cases this fall. So far, only three cases of the variant have been discovered in two countries – Israel and Denmark – but several experts told DailyMail.com that the strain was “probably” already in the US.
Asked about parts of the country experiencing a Covid resurgence, Dr Gottlieb said he was concerned about the South.
“The part of the country I would be most concerned about right now is the South,” he told CNBC, “where we are seeing an increase in ER visits for Covid.
“About two percent of ER visits in the South are currently for Covid, so that’s the part of the country where we’re seeing the biggest increase right now.”
He urged Americans to make sure they are up to date on their Covid vaccines and to get a booster shot in the fall.
EG.5 is one of the fastest spreading variants on record, possibly due to a ‘somewhat beneficial mutation’ that causes the disease to be transmitted more quickly than its relatives.
But the strain is also mild and poses no more threat to public health than other varieties, according to the World Health Organization.
Last week, the agency labeled it a “variety of interest” because it spread so quickly.
“Collectively, the available evidence does not suggest that EG.5 has additional public health risks compared to the other currently circulating descendants of Omicron,” the WHO said in a risk assessment.
A more comprehensive evaluation of EG.5’s risk was needed, it added.
The CDC has labeled it a “supervised” variety because it has a slightly different classification system.
US hospital admissions are on the rise, ticking up from historic lows. About 10,000 admissions were registered in the past week – 14 percent more than the week before
However, the number of deaths from Covid remains static, although it takes longer for someone who has contracted Covid to be hospitalized and then die of infection
The latest CDC data shows that hospital admissions are up 14 percent in the past seven days to 10,300 admissions per week.
But they are rising from historic lows and remain well short of this year’s peak of 44,000 admissions recorded in January. At the height of the pandemic, admissions soared to more than 150,000 a week.
The number of Covid deaths is still static: almost 500 recorded per week – or less than 70 per day in the US.
Scientists say this is likely caused by declining immunity in the population among people last infected over winter and variants emerging that are better able to evade current vaccines or natural immunity.
Routine Pap smears are no longer performed in the US and only a fraction of positive tests are sent for analysis to determine the strain behind a case, meaning it can take weeks to detect new strains and calculate how prominent they are.