According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), COVID-19 cases in the United States are on the rise. Between August 6 and August 12, 2023, for instance, COVID-19 hospital admissions increased to 12,613 cases (21.6%) and death rates increased by 1.3%.
Reuters notes that a new variant of the coronavirus called EG-5 (also named Eris) is becoming more dominant across the U.S. Clearly, COVID-19 is still a real threat and is unpredictable.
If you’re wondering how your geographic area is currently affected by COVID-19, check out the CDC’s COVID-19 Hospitalizations, Deaths, Emergency Department (ED) Visits, and Test Positivity.
Eris Has Become a ‘Variant of Interest,’ Says WHO
On August 9, the World Health Organization (WHO) upgraded the new Eris to a “variant of interest.” WHO also noted that Eris is one of the Omicron variants.
Eris has been circulating in the United States and other countries, according to WHO. Other countries that have been affected as of August 7 include:
- South Korea
- The United Kingdom
With this unpredictable new COVID-19 variant and more people remaining indoors due to the starting of the fall season, we all need to be prepared and to take appropriate precautions. It’s possible that we may see a higher number of Eris-related respiratory cases and more hospitalizations.
What Are the Symptoms of COVID-19?
According to the CDC, the most common signs of COVID-19 are:
- Fever or chills
- Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
- New loss of taste or smell
- Muscle or body aches
- Sore throat
- Congestion or runny nose
- Nausea or vomiting
If you are experiencing any of these symptoms, consider the following options:
- Get tested for COVID-19
- If you have already tested positive for COVID-19, learn more about CDC’s isolation guidance
COVID-19 symptoms vary from person to person. Also, the symptoms may change depending upon the variant and the stages of COVID-19. For instance, some COVID-19 patients may experience severe respiratory symptoms and a loss of smell in the early stages.
Although the risk of contracting Eris is currently low globally, there are some people who would benefit by taking extra precautions such as mask wearing and frequent hand sanitization. For instance, the CDC recommends that people with a medical condition that compromises their immunity (such as diabetes or cancer) or who are undergoing medical treatment (such as chemotherapy) should take extra care to avoid infection. These people may experience more advanced symptoms that can lead to fever and inflammation and have a higher risk of becoming sicker from COVID-19.
What Are the Similarities and Differences Between Flu and COVID-19?
According to the CDC, flu and COVID-19 are both contagious respiratory illnesses that are caused by different viruses. COVID-19 is caused by infection from the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus, and flu is caused by infection from an influenza virus.
It is difficult to tell the difference between the symptoms of flu and COVID-19. Some polymerase chain reaction (PCR) tests can differentiate between flu and COVID-19 because they can detect genetic material from a particular virus.
If a PCR test is not available, many testing locations provide separate flu and COVID-19 tests. When you have symptoms, be sure to talk to a healthcare provider about getting tested for both flu and COVID-19.
What You Can Do to Protect Yourself from Eris and Other COVID-19 Variants
Although the CDC declared that COVID-19 was no longer a public health emergency on May 11, access to COVID-19 vaccines is still available. Currently, the federal government is distributing free COVID-19 vaccines to all adults and children.
If you find out that you were exposed to someone who developed COVID-19, there are ways to detect it. For instance:
- COVID-19 at-home tests are widely available but they may not be covered by insurance.
- The CDC’s No-Cost COVID-19 Testing Locator can help you find current community and pharmacy partners participating in the Increasing Community Access to Testing (ICATT) program.
Also, medication to prevent severe COVID-19, such as Paxlovid, will remain available for free while supplies last. Check with your healthcare provider if you need early treatment to prevent severe COVID-19.
The CDC has published a lot of information on what you need to know, such as:
- How to to stay up to date with COVID-19 vaccines and boosters
- How to follow preventive measures for COVID-19, such as washing hands, wearing masks, practicing social distancing while in public, and staying home when you have suspected or confirmed COVID-19
Be Careful to Protect Yourself and Others from Eris and Other COVID-19 Variants
If you are exposed to someone with COVID-19, then follow CDC’s recommendations for what to do. The CDC recommends includes “wearing a high-quality mask when indoors around others (including inside your home) for 10 days, testing, and monitoring yourself for symptoms.”
Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the current WHO Director-General, says that “although COVID-19 is over as a global health emergency, it remains a global health threat. Cases and deaths continue to be reported from around the world. Although people are better protected by vaccination and prior infection, this is not an excuse to let down our guard.”
To monitor Eris and other COVID-19 variants, the CDC maintains a webpage that provides a situation summary and the latest information. The CDC continues to work closely with state health authorities to identify, investigate, and monitor any new or potential variant of COVID-19 like Eris.